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Lone Star style

Smoky flavor of Texas beef brisket, other meats draw people from near and far to Summertown’s Shaffer Farms
Story and photos by Chris Villines 3/23/2018

Barbecue, perhaps more than any other food in certain parts of the good ol’ US of A, is the source of territorial bragging rights.

Memphis lays claim to having the best. So does Nashville. Ditto Kansas City. And there are folks in North Carolina and Alabama who will brandish pitchforks if their respective styles of barbecue aren’t lauded in the same breath with others.

These outposts all have one thing in common: Their reputations have largely been earned by serving plentiful platters of pulled pork. But in Central Texas, the marquee attraction at roadside barbecue joints is juicy, slow-cooked beef brisket.

Lawrenceburg’s Frank Shaffer has sampled the fare at many of these Lone Star State legends, such as Salt Lick and Southside. As a law school student at the University of Texas in Austin and, later, a practicing attorney in the state where he lived as a youngster (his family moved to Lawrence County in 1963), he says he would make special trips to seek out these off-the-beaten-path havens of “true” Texas barbecue.

“You had to drive a good ways sometimes, but it was always worth it,” says Frank. “You’d get all the food you could handle. We would go in somewhere, like a group of three of us, and say, ‘Give us a rack of ribs, a pound or two of brisket and sausage, and a quart of those beans.’ We were always big about filling up on meat!”

 After exiting law and moving back to Lawrenceburg to carry on Shaffer’s Mufflers, the multi-location business his late father, Ishmael, had begun, Frank missed those meat-seeking treks.

“There was nowhere around here to get Texas barbecue,” he says. “People would say, ‘So and so serves Texas-style barbecue.’ No, I mean real Texas barbecue, where beef brisket is king.”

What’s a guy to do?

In Frank’s case, the Lawrence Farmers Cooperative member took matters into his own hands and brought that Texas flavor to Tennessee himself with an added twist. At the edge of his 1,000-acre cattle farm on Vaughn Staggs Road in Summertown, where he is in the process of building back up a herd of Beefmaster cattle, stands Shaffer Farms Meat Market and Texas Bar-B-Q.

This inviting, laid back place allows visitors to chow down on smoked brisket, chicken, ribs, sausage, pork, and sides made from scratch, and also hand-select their favorite cut of meat to take home. The setup of a combination restaurant/meat market housed together is something Frank also borrowed from his time in Texas.

“A lot of barbecue places there do it that way,” he says. “In my mind, I knew it would work.”

Since opening at the beginning of 2007, word has spread about this rural dream destination for carnivores, and not just among the locals. Take Earnest Green and wife Rebecca, for example, who recently traveled nearly 100 miles to have lunch at Shaffer Farms.

“I had the brisket and it was incredible,” says Rebecca who, with Earnest, raises blueberries, vegetables, and chickens, and keeps honeybees at the couple’s farm in Coffee County. “We prefer to eat at a place owned by an individual rather than go to a chain restaurant. It’s a nice drive to get here; we took the back roads.”

Earnest says he and Rebecca also enjoyed browsing the meat market, where fresh cuts — including hard-to-find options such as pork crown roasts — are encased below displays of Shaffer Farms’ proprietary “Texassee” brand of rubs and sauces. Among other items available in the market are award-winning country hams, deli meats and cheeses, homemade pies and pecan brittle, and different varieties of beef jerky. Shaffer Farms makes 18 different kinds of sausages alone.

“Our quality makes the difference,” says David Williams, who manages the meat market. “If you come here to eat or buy a piece of meat, you get Choice or Prime. If you ever eat one of my filets or a bite of my ground beef, I’ve got you for life. You won’t go anywhere else.”

So, what exactly is Texas barbecue? Frank says he gets that question a lot, and to answer these queries a sign is posted in the restaurant defining the process:

“Texas Bar-B-Q is primarily beef brisket (you will never see true Texas Bar-B-Q that doesn’t serve brisket or shoulder clod). But Texas Bar-B-Q is more than a cut of meat, it’s a STYLE … a method of cooking that began in, and is still followed, in the Lone Star State.

“Being Texans, we abide by the ‘rules’ of Texas Bar-B-Q for all of our meats: (1) Sprinkled and hand-rubbed 24 hours before cooking; (2) Slow-smoked away from direct heat (up to 20 hours); (3) Using a blend of woods that includes mesquite; (4) Basting with a quality sauce during the final stages of cooking.

“Also, Texas Bar-B-Q always includes a good smoked sausage and will be served with light bread or crackers and pickles, onions, and jalapeño peppers.”

Frank says many pork purists have taken their first bite of Texas brisket at Shaffer Farms, where homages to his Texas roots are in pictures and on signs throughout the establishment. And once they do, they’re hooked.

“In 2016, we sold 42 tons of brisket between the restaurant and meat market,” he reports. “That’s a lot of Texas barbecue. I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me, ‘I wish I had found out about this brisket a lot sooner!’”

One of those converts is, surprisingly, Shaffer Farms kitchen manager Kristi Brown.

“I had never tried brisket until I came to work here 10 years ago,” admits Kristi, who oversees the day-to-day operations inside the restaurant while fellow employee Corey Kerr mans the meats on the smokers outside. “Of course, I like to think everything we make here is terrific, but it’s the brisket that we’re known for. If someone comes in and says they’ve never had brisket, I’ll let them try a sample. That’s all it takes. I’ve never had anyone say they didn’t like it.”

Enthusiasm for Shaffer Farms’ food — regulars also swear by the eatery’s ranch potatoes, a flavorful mixture of red potatoes, onions, jalapeños, butter, cheese, and sour cream — has created quite a “word-of-mouth” buzz about the place.

“I’ve never advertised the first time,” Frank says. “Everyone has told me I need to, but we don’t seem to have any trouble filling up the parking lot. It’s unbelievable — you’ll walk outside and see just as many out-of-county and even out-of-state cars. Our county executive really

appreciates that.”

Doug Monroe, a part-time farmer from neighboring Mt. Pleasant, says he makes the drive from Maury County to Shaffer Farms “often.”

“The food is great and the people here are so nice,” says Doug. “I lived in South Texas for two years, and this place takes me back there a little. The brisket and sausage are my favorites. I tell everybody I know to come here.”

And when they do, Frank says he hopes it will be the first of many visits.

“Repeat business is the key to staying in business,” he explains. “We want people to come back and leave full every time. If you don’t leave here full, something’s wrong!”

Shaffer Farms Meat Market and Texas Bar-B-Q is located at 4 Vaughn Staggs Road in Summertown. Hours for the meat market are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 931-964-8732.

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