Growing up in the sleepy suburb of Lemon Grove, I would have never thought in a million years that any restaurant located here was capable of attracting a crowd, especially not one of discerning foodie types. My hometown, which is best known for its giant lemon boasting “The Best Climate on Earth,” was a fine place to be a kid, but about as far from a dining destination as one could imagine.
Coop’s West Texas Barbecue popped up in a strip mall two paces from Grandma’s house sometime last October. My family used to order delivery from the Little Caesars directly behind it and rent videos from the space next door that is currently some sort of religious facility. It’s funny to have a personal history with a strip mall.
The Astronomer and I drove past Coop’s a dozen times before finally gathering up the troops to try the place. Truth be told, it was favorable Yelp reviews that finally convinced us that the ‘cue here was worthy of exploration. Joining us for lunch were my mom, cousins Phil, Jimmy, Danny, Jackie, and Michael, as well as Michael’s girlfriend.
There was a small line formed at the counter when we arrived, and nearly every table was occupied. Fortunately, two tables opened up just as we were ready to sit. We jammed them together to fit all nine of us.
Coop, the restaurant’s chef and proprietor, hails from Midland, and everything here is prepared in true Texas fashion. All of the meats are smoked low and slow in the indoor brick pit-smoker or in the outdoor steel aqua smokers. Mesquite and red oak are used to fuel the fire and to imbue the proteins with that certain something.
Coop serves his meat sauce-less to allow the rubs and natural flavors to shine brightly. Two house-made sauces are available table side for diners to use as they please. Both are molasses and ketchup based—the one in the brown bottle is mild, while the one in the red bottle has a spicy kick.