Abilene Reporter News
From the pit ashes of the shuttered, Wingate-based The Shed – a 2003 Top 50 Texas Monthly barbecue joint – the wafting smoke of its reincarnation, The Shed Market in Abilene, is attracting a new generation of carnivores.
Within 2½ hours of lighting the “open” sign at The Shed Market on May 11 at 6382 Buffalo Gap Road, owners Stacie and Byron Stephenson sold out of 180 pounds of smoked brisket, 15 racks of pork ribs plus a handful of beef rib racks, smoked turkey breasts and pulled pork.
More than the ringing up of sales, Byron enjoyed hearing customers’ praise about his grandparents, Betty and Hollis Dean, the owners of The Shed that put Wingate – about 47 miles southwest of Abilene – on the Texas barbecue map. Before standing in line for hours at popular Austin barbecue joints was a thing, Texans would drive for miles past pastures and cotton fields to the Dean homestead for smoked meats and hand-cut steaks.
“I learned everything about cooking barbecue from them,” Byron said about his grandparents. “The ribs and brisket are done the exact same way. We just upped the quality of the beef. We use only prime brisket.”
The new venture also has a meat market – hence the expanded name – to cater to those customers who prefer to cook their own rib-eyes, sirloins or other meats hand cut to a requested thickness. The meat market case features prime and choice options that are cut to the customer’s requested thickness and high-end brands like well-marbled HeartBrand steaks from Japanese Akaushi cattle raised on a ranch near Flatonia. The Akaushi rib-eyes run $35.99
a pound. Byron’s signature coarse-ground hamburger patties are a blend of beef cuts that include brisket. “There are a lot of foodies in Abilene who like to cook this kind of quality meat,” Stacie said. Customers also can request special meats. The Stephensons already have fielded special orders for rabbit and goat. “Even if it’s something we don’t have, we can find it,” Stacie said. Even the sides are uptown. The cole slaw is lightly spiked with cilantro and jalapeno for a subtle kick, the mac-and-cheese has green chilies, and bacon and ranch liven up the potato salad.
Byron Stephenson, owner of The Shed Market seasons custom-cut steaks for a customer who was planning to grill them at a company cook out. “Our signature is we use only fresh ingredients. Everything is made fresh,” Byron said. That includes the green beans, fruits in the cobblers and pinto beans made from scratch. And the sweet-and-hot, tomato-based barbecue sauce is Hollis’ original recipe. “It took years to get that recipe,” Stacie said.
Blending Old and New
One of the pits used in Wingate is fired up now in a small building behind the shopping center where The Shed Market is located. Nicknamed Al, the pit is dedicated to smoking ribs. Next to it is a new pit dubbed Larry that can handle up to 35 briskets. Smoke and heat from post oak wood is judiciously used over 16 to 17 hours to imbue briskets with flavor and transform them into tender, moist meat. It is almost as if that older pit was destined for its new home. Byron lived in the house that was torn down to make room for the new shopping center that has a handful of restaurants and other businesses. From the pits, Byron has a clear view of Bulldog Stadium at Wylie High School, his alma mater. Byron started working at The Shed as a dishwasher when he was in the sixth grade. There were a lot of dishes then because meals were served on steak plates, not butcher paper. “They might run 400 people on a Saturday night,” Byron said.He progressed to working the pits while in high school, and running the kitchen when he was 17. Stacie also worked at the restaurant, which usually operated on Fridays and Saturdays. The Deans closed the restaurant in 2004 but kept catering in the area occasionally until 2010 when the Stephensons took over the operation. Catering was a side job while Byron ran his construction company and Stacie worked as a nurse. Days before opening the restaurant, the Stephensons catered a gathering of 500 judges and county commissioners in Frisco. Catering commitments are limited for the foreseeable future until the Stephensons get their bearings on the restaurant, which is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The barbecue may sell out before closing time. In the future, there may be reservation-only, prime-rib dinners or special events on how to cook a steak, Stacie said. Opening the restaurant has been a long-time goal for the Stephensons. “It’s always been in the back of my mind, and it was something Stacie and I could do together. We were just led to do this together,” Byron said. A stack of post oak is ready for the pits behind The Shed Market. He wanted the restaurant to have a modern rustic vibe with brick walls, metal accents and extra-long, custom-crafted wooden picnic tables. It is a well-lit, open space where customers can see all the activity in the kitchen. The restaurant logo was designed by the Stephenson’s 18-year-old daughter, Taylor, who works behind the counter. The couple’s son, Brock, 14, pitches in, as well. The initial positive response to the restaurant has been overwhelming, Stacie said. “We’re so, so thankful,” she said.
IF YOU GO
What: The Shed Market
Where: 6382 Buffalo Gap Road, Suite D
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays (barbecue may sell out earlier, but the meat market is open)
Menu highlights: Barbecue prices are by the half pound - $8.50 for brisket, $6 for regular or jalapeno-and-cheese sausage and $8 for turkey or pulled pork. Pork ribs are $14 for half rack and $25 for full rack. A chopped brisket sandwich with chips is $8, and a one-meat plate with two sides is $9.99.
Contact: 325-692-7433. Updates also posted at The Shed Market on Facebook and Instagram.