Lolo Garcia - Foodways Texas

Lolo Garcia
Plantation BBQ - Richmond, TX
Date: January 4, 2013
Location: Plantation BBQ
Interviewer: Rien Fertel
Transcription: Linda K. Carr
Length: 17 minutes
Project: Greater Houston Barbecue Trail
Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
RIEN FERTEL (RF): Check, check. Alright, this Rien Fertel with Foodways Texas. It is Friday,
January the fourth, about ten minutes to eleven [10:50] in the morning. I’m in Richmond, TX—
in the food trailer that is Plantation BBQ, and I am going to interview Mr. Lolo Garcia, and have
him introduce himself now.
LG (LG): Hello, I am Mr. Garcia, Lolo Garcia, I am the owner from the Plantation BBQ. I am
the one that makes the famous brisket, and everybody loves it, especially the brisket taco. And
they know, because he just tried it, and he loved it. [Laughter]
RF: I did, I did, and please— [Laughter] give me your birth date first, please.
LG: January the first, forty-seven.
RF: Alright, well, happy birthday, and—let’s talk about your brisket.—Why brisket, of all the
things you can barbecue, why brisket?
LG: Why brisket? Well, it takes more time, and more fun to do it, I imagine that’s what it is, you
know, to cook it. It’s not like a chicken, and it’s not like a rib or sausage, so, less than four hours
they're done. No, not the brisket. The brisket you take all your time with it, and love what I’m
RF: So, you said it both takes a long time, so, that's a lot of hard work, but it’s also fun.
LG: It’s not hard work; it’s not hard work, it’s fun to do it, if you know what you’re doing.
RF: Okay, what’s fun about it, tell us what’s fun?
LG: You cook it. You got to love the smoke, if you don’t love the smoke, don’t mess with it.
[Laughter] Because that's what you get every time you open this pit: check your briskets, all that
smoke hits your face, and you like that, you gonna make, you gonna be a good barbecue man.
Because that’s what it takes.
RF: Tell us about the importance of smoke, and why you love smoke, and what smoke means to
LG: Well, you got the right smoke and the heat: you’re doing a good job with your brisket. Now,
if you overcook it, because you like to get it seared brown and it’s ready. No, it’s not. You can’t
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Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
cook a brisket over three [300] or three-fifty [350], because you are—you’re burning it, and your
taking all the good juice out of it. It just takes time to do it.
RF: So, at what temperature do you cook your brisket?
LG: Usually between two-fifty [250] or two-twenty-five [225].
RF: For how long?
LG: You’re talking about—if the brisket weighs twelve pounds, you’re looking at twelve hours.
Mostly what it is—is an hour for a pound, when you’re cooking it.
RF: And—what’s the process when do you put it on, do you spice the brisket before?
LG: Usually when I buy it, I put it on the table, I look at it, and I season it real good, and I put
some—sometimes—pickle juice in it, so, it wouldn’t dry, because the pickle juice has a little
vinegar in it, and I season it, and I make my own little season to put in there, and that’s all it
takes, to do it.
RF: So, it’s—a special seasoning?
LG: Yeah, you just don’t throw it in there, you get your two hands, and with your gloves, and
you season it front and back, and you turn it over, and do it again on the back, and then not too
much neither. I have a little ounce cup that I use on each side to—to season it.
RF: Do you trim the brisket, before or, put it on just as you bought it?
LG: Oh, no! Don’t ever trim a brisket, and I’ll never buy a trimmed brisket. If you do, do it in
the oven, don’t do it—don’t do it with wood, because it dries it out. That’s what it makes it good,
that fat what it’s got in there.
RF: And what kind of, when you buy a brisket what kind of brisket are you looking for? What
kind of fat to—to—to meat to muscle ratio?
LG: Any brisket I buy, I look at it. It’s got to have the right amount of fat, and you can tell, if
you know—if you know about brisket like I do, you can tell when you got a little fat in there.
You don’t want a brisket over-fat, because you just cooking fat.
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Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
RF: So tell us about—the pit. It’s a pit in a food trailer—who built this pit, how would you
describe the pit?
LG: Well, when I bought the trailer, the pit came in it. I did not like the trailer, but I liked the pit.
Mostly that’s the key of any barbecue that you do, is your pit, because it has to control your heat,
and your smoke of everything on the end of your pit, and when a pit has that, it’s a good stove to
cool. If that don’t have a control for the heat and your smoke, it’s going to be hard to cook a good
RF: For how long have you been cooking brisket, in your life?
LG: Oh, about twenty-six years, or maybe more, I really—I can’t tell you exactly but it’s over
RF: And who taught you? Where did the—the practice come from?
LG: Well, in Victoria there was this— How do I say it—black man? —Yeah, black man. Yeah.
[Laughter] Okay, well it was this guy, his name, I think it was was Tom. He was a black old man
had a little shack, and at that time he had a pit, a ground pit, and he hired me just to clean the
ground pit, and I was watching him, and learning from him the way he was doing it, and that’s
how I learned.
RF: So, it was in Victoria, was it just on the side of the highway, was it a real restaurant?
LG: No, no, no, no it was just a—well side of the road, yeah, but it was just like a little a—like a
little building, a little convertible building, old building. And—well back in those days, they
didn’t have anything like that, it was a brick pit that you cook, and that’s how I learned my—my
trade, what I’m doing right now. But I just see and learn. I don’t know how to read and write, but
I can see and I learn in less than thirty, forty minutes. I see, and it stays in my mind, and—and I
—I did it, I make mistakes. No body's perfect, it took me a while, before I got up there, but I did
RF: You were his—his like pit master, you worked the pit?
LG: Yeah, and other things. I used to clean his pit. I was maybe, hell, I don’t know, maybe
fifteen, fourteen, sixteen, I don’t remember, it’s a lot of years ago.
[Aside: Lolo talk to a customer]
RF: No, that’s Okay. So you—learned from this man in Victoria, and then you went into
business for yourself, right?
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Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
LG: Well, I learned from him, but I didn’t go into business in barbecue. I didn’t do that, until I
moved over here—we were coming over here, my wife, my family, and I saw this little trailer, on
the side road, and the smoke, and I could smell that smoke. So, we turned around and then, I just
was looking, you know, and I said to myself, “Man, this is, this is something different.” I didn’t
see that, they didn’t have that in Victoria at all, no, nothing like this, and I talked to the guy, and
he didn’t want to answer me, so many questions that I wanted to know, so, I didn’t say nothing
no more, but I looked at it, that trailer.
[Aside: Lolo talk to a customer]
RF: Okay—so, you bought this trailer?
LG: No, not this one.
RF: Okay.
LG: No, no. I meet this guy, that he does trailers and pits, and sells them, and he told me he had
one. The guy, he didn’t wanted it no more, and he was selling it for me, for two-thousand dollars.
So, I went and looked at it, and I liked what I saw, and I liked the pit. As a matter of fact, I got
the pit at my house, and—when I started, opened, I had—it was right next to my home, and I had
it outside, and I was trying it, you know, to cook, and it don’t—the brisket didn’t turn out right, it
was burned. So, I tried it again—and I did better, and people were coming to the window. “Hey, I
like to have a sandwich, or—” Not tacos, just sandwiches, at that time, I didn’t—make that
sandwich yet. I didn’t come up with that sandwich. “Well I’m not.” “Well I’ll give you four
dollars a sandwich.” I was like, “Well, okay, I’ll make you some.” So, I made it. So, I started
from there. [Laughter] Just the smoke, the smell. I did it like that almost two years.
RF: At this location, here?
LG: At the house.
RF: Oh, your house.
LG: Okay. I didn’t have no permits—can I say that?
RF: Yeah.
LG: I didn’t have no permits or nothing. Just the pit and the table, and that
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Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
was it. And finally, the health inspector comes, because I had a line of people. And he walked in
the door, and I tell him, you know, “Sir, you got to go over there to order.” And he’s: “No, I’m
not going over there. I am here to shut you down.” —Like, “Oh, shit!” [Laughter] And I go,
“What did I do now? Oh, no.” I tell him, “Why, why?” “Because you are selling food, without
permits, you ain’t even got a sink.” He was pretty rough. “Oh, man.” And that’s it—and he was
the health inspector, big old guy. “Sir, I really didn’t want to do this, but there were customers
that they wanted them, so, they put four dollars in my hands, and by the time I know it, I got all
of these people here.” “Come on, don’t give me that story.” And, “Well, I’m telling you the truth,
I’m not lying to you. I didn’t know that I had to have permits. I didn’t know that I had to have a
—sinks.” He’s: “Have you ever been in a restaurant?” And I go, “Yes, sir.” “Well, check the
kitchen, to see if they got sinks of water to wash your hands, or to wash this, or do this.” “Well,
yeah, I didn’t know a trailer had to have all that, but, yes, sir.” “You know what? I am going to
write you down, and I’m going to give you a ticket.” “Alright, sir.” So, I went outside, and I just
sat down, and “Ah, man.” Then he came back, and said, “You know what? You look like a very
honest man. I’m going to give you a chance. I’m going to give you six months, and you can
open, stay open. I am going to give you six months to do it, and I’m going to come and check, if
you don’t have it ready, the fine is a thousand something. Plus, I have to take your social security
this and that, to make sure that you’re not—that you don’t get a permit for trailers like this.”
“Well, sir, I’ll have it ready for you.” That’s when I move to Pecan Road, [address] three-fiftynine. That’s why we call it Plantation BBQ, because everything was plantation there—furniture
Plantation, filling station Plantation, and I didn’t know what name to use, and then Mama [Rose
Garcia, his wife] said, “Well, just call it ‘Plantation BBQ,’ we're in Plantation.”
Rose Garcia (RG): Everything’s plantation here.
LG: So, that’s where I started. Three-fifty-nine Pecan Road.
RF: So, when did the—tortilla with brisket come about?
LG: That happened about ten years later, or maybes eight years, or something like that.
RF: Well first what year did you open on over there on?
RG: Eighty-Seven [1987]?
LG: Eighty or Ninety—man, I can’t give you a correct year.
RF: Your wife just said eighty-seven, so, it was ten years later you did the tortilla?
LG: More like when I started over there, at the house, that I did before I got stopped.
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Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
RG: [Laughter]
LG: Okay—I’ve been around, I’ve been around, okay. You see that little park over there. When
you pass there, you want to take a picture, because there's still some tables over there, but
nobody can go there, because they sold all of this land, and that little park belongs to this land. I
was there almost six months. And that’s when I moved, and then from there I moved to Conroe.
And these people that I had here, they went up there. There comes this highway patrol, he
ordered a sandwich, and he was, he finished eating it, and everything, and he said, “Man, this the
best, I like this brisket, it’s real tender, and juicy, and even your barbecue. You make your own
barbecue?” “Yeah.” “You know what I’m, I hate to tell you this, you know, I know you’re doing
good, and everything, but you can’t park here no more.” I go, “Why?” “Well, this is county
property, state property. That’s why you can’t, you got to make—you got to move somewhere
else. But, I’m going to give you a chance to make it through today, but tomorrow, this is my
route for six months, if I see you, I’m going to have to give you a ticket.” So, I moved from
there, that’s when I moved; I forgot about that spot right there,. And then I moved to Conroe.
Now there I was paying twenty dollars a week, a little spot, and the guy that owned that little—
owned that land right next to us. He was selling on Christmas—he was selling Christmas—
Christmas trees, and in the summer, he used to sell all kind of produce, that’s why his business
was called, a Shine—Sunshine Produce, and I used to rent from him. I used to rent that little
RF: You were telling me about—the invention of the tortilla—and brisket on tortilla.
LG: Okay, well I had this truck—and it said it there, “Roofing”—
[Background noise]
Sorry—Okay. And there was a bunch of guys coming out of the trucks, maybe about ten, or
fifteen guys, and they all wanted tacos. They didn’t want a sandwich. And I tell them, “Well, you
know what guys I got some brisket tacos with pico de gallo y salsa.” “Bring it over.” And they
ate, I don’t know how many tacos. I know it was definitely a whole
brisket, all those guys. So, I closed that day. Because I was barely making it, you know, and
that’s how I started. I hope this is it guys because it’s kind of tight right now. Is there anything
you want to know real fast?
RF: And let me just—ask you one more thing about, about the addition of the eggs too. Can you
tell me about that about that, the egg?
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Lolo Garcia — Plantation BBQ
LG: When I started my brisket breakfast with eggs in it, we were making a menu, me and my
wife, on the breakfast—because I wanted to put more items there, besides the bacon and the
sausage, you know, and I told my wife, you know, “Go ahead, and put brisket and egg.” “What?”
I said, “Yes; just write it down, okay. Brisket and egg, barbacoa with egg, chicken with egg,
chicharrónes with eggs, fajitas with eggs.” And—I think I—hit the nail— on all breakfast,
because they all go real good, and especially that brisket and egg, people love that. They—they
really do love that, because you don’t just put it lean in there, you put a little fat in there, because
that’s the flavor of the breakfast.
RF: Well, I want to thank you. Thank you for talking with us.
LG: Okay, thank you, guys. I’m glad y’all came alright, and I’m sorry about this—I got to get
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