Barbeque Reigns In Texas And Tootsie Is Its Queen

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for October 11, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            Just about every town in Texas has a “barbecue place,” that is, a Meat-Market/Eatery type of establishment, which sells barbecued meat by the pound and by the plate. Ours in East Bernard, our course, is Vincek’s Smokehouse, twice named, since it opened in 1985, to the top 50 Best Places to Eat Barbecue by Texas Monthly. Like most East Bernard residents, I am proud of our barbecue place, and any time out of town people come to see us, we take them to the Smokehouse! They’re impressed with the kolaches as well as the barbecue.

            During my growing up years in Lee County, Texas, there was such a place in Giddings, called “The City Meat Market,” where you could go in the back of the meat market itself and eat barbecue served on a paper towel on a long table with benches. I can’t remember whether they had kolaches or not, but it seems they served homemade bread.

            In the good old days anyway, those establishments barbecued their meat by burning logs and shoveling wood coals under the meat. Many men, like my father, did the same thing at home, each one having his own preference for wood. My daddy liked to barbecue with mesquite wood, but many others felt pecan wood created the best flavor. Once, when I wanted to barbecue with charcoal, my father accused me of being too “citified.”

            Barbecue establishments have gone a long way since the 1940’s, as barbecue has become “King” in Texas, the Texas Monthly chronicling “The Best Barbecue Places in Texas” every year. Today, we even have the Barbecue Hall of Fame in Kansas, to which the newly famous Pitmaster, Tootsie Tomanetz, was named in September of this year.

            Tootsie is Pitmaster at Snow’s Barbecue in Lexington, Texas, about 20 minutes from Giddings and 25 from Dime Box. Snow’s was named the “Best Barbecue Joint in Texas” by Texas Monthly, not just once, but twice. Receiving such honors caused barbecue sales to double and triple, as Lexington is only about an hour’s drive from Austin, and Austin folks overflowed the town. Snow’s Barbecue became the “in” place. Even the New Yorker wrote a story about Snow’s.

            Snow’s Barbecue is owned by Terry Bexler, whose nickname is “Snow,” The story goes that when his mother was pregnant with him, someone asked his little brother if Snow wanted a little brother or a little sister, his brother replied he wanted a little snowman. So, when he was born, folks started calling him “Snowman.”

            Since Tootsie, Snow’s now famous Pitmaster, was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame in September, 2018, she has been the Queen of Barbecue in the media, most recently being asked to appear on Good Morning America. Texas Monthly called her “Snow’s Queen,” and she is sought after for interviews by many newspapers.

            When the Hall-of-Fame story about Tootsie Tomanetz broke, I thought the name sounded very familiar, but then “Tomanetz” is an old Lee County name. It wasn’t until one of my Spitzenberger cousins posted the media stories about her on Facebook, referring to her as “his cousin,” that I finally recognized the name.

            I can’t claim her as my cousin, but here’s the deal. Tootsie married my aunt’s sister’s son, my aunt having married my daddy’s brother, thus really an “aunt-in-law.” While I can’t claim her as kin, I can claim her as “almost kin,” lol.

            Kin or not, I am very proud of Tootsie Tomanetz and the way she has been honored and continues to be, mainly because I love it when good, kind, humble, hard-working, highly skilled folks are recognized and honored.


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.


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