The Most Wanted Man at Mealtime
[imgbelt img=murrays-litmus320.jpg]Murray’s passes the exacting “brisket test” and steers the barbecue-driven to Cooper, Texas.
[imgcontainer left] [img:murrays-litmus320.jpg] [source]Pamela PriceLitmus test for any Texas barbecue establishment: How good is the brisket? And Murray’s in Cooper – VERY!
Though he’s made a name in Northeast Texas as one of the best barbecue pit masters around, Rick Murray came to running a Delta County ‘cue business the long way.
“I used to install dairy equipment. I worked five counties and three states,” says Murray. “When I was out working, I would stop and eat at all the little roadside barbecue places. That’s how I figured out that the best barbecue was the pure wood-smoked kind.”
Inspired by what he’d found, Murray built his first pit and used it to cook up meat for his family’s annual Independence Day bashes in the ’80.
“People really liked the meat and I liked making it. Finally, I decided to quit installing the dairy equipment. I had a building, so in late ’86 I got started with the new business.”
When his joint opened outside of tiny Cooper, Texas, word spread quickly that it was a good place to eat. I know this because a family friend tipped my parents off to Murray’s remarkable, melt-in-your-mouth brisket early on. I went off to college in ’89, and my parents used to bring me a pound or so. I prized those paper-wrapped slices of brisket more highly than anything (even the rolls of quarters Mom brought for my laundry). It was a taste of home. The meat was so good, in fact, that I’ve spent over twenty years in search of something comparable. If such a thing is out there, I haven’t found it yet.
Having reviewed a new Texas barbecue book recently that stopped short of exploring the more off-beat, back roads ‘cue that I grew up on, I’d been wondering if Murray’s meat was as good as I remember. So a few weeks back on a rare trip to my hometown of Paris, I stopped in on Murray at a little after eleven A.M. on a Tuesday. From my spot near the front entrance I spied a dog walking around a large pit stored in a shed off the side.
Inside the metal building, Murray’s place was already starting to fill up with folksy, hard-working fellas joking around. I ordered half a pound of brisket to sample in the car (a.k.a. “the brisket litmus”) before deciding if there was a story to be told. I paid cash (credit cards aren’t welcome) and made my way back to the parking lot to have a taste.
[imgcontainer left] [img:MurrayExterior320.jpg] [source]Pamela PriceRick Murray has outlasted all the other restauranteurs in Delta County, Texas, by outcooking them.