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Nomadic Fort Worth BBQ restaurant reopens in cozy gas station haunt

Nomadic Fort Worth BBQ restaurant reopens in cozy gas station haunt

BBQ on the Brazos sampler
One BBQ sampler, coming up. Photo courtesy of BBQ on the Brazos

A local barbecue saga ends back in exactly the same place it started: in a Texaco station in Cresson.

The Fort Worth location of acclaimed barbecue joint BBQ on the Brazos has closed — but owners John Sanford and Kathryn Warren have reopened the restaurant in the Texaco gas station in Cresson where they started out seven years ago.

The reopening caps a two-year odyssey that saw the couple moving locations twice before resettling in their original home: a Texaco station sandwiched between a busy highway and racetrack, at 9001 E. US Highway 377.

"You could say we've come full circle," Sanford says. "What we've learned over the past two years is that Cresson is the best home for this restaurant."

The pair decided to relocate back in Cresson after the gas station was taken over by new owners.

"They invited us back," Sanford says. "They told us, 'We don't want to buy the station if you’re not going to be a part of it.' That sold us on coming back."

Warren and Sanford opened BBQ on the Brazos in 2013 and quickly won over locals and barbecue aficionados. The restaurant went on to be named one of the top 50 barbecue joints in the state by Texas Monthly.

Sanford was one of the first pitmasters in the area to take a craft-inspired approach to barbecue, serving large slices of brisket with the fat and crust still intact.

Sides such as potato salad, cole slaw, and cornbread salad are made from scratch, as are the desserts, which include banana pudding.

The restaurant also became known for opening early to serve breakfast items such as brisket tacos, migas, and huevos rancheros.

It was two years ago that the couple abruptly closed the restaurant after a lease dispute. They reappeared months later, working out of a food truck parked a few feet from the Texaco station.

That location put them in direct competition with Rooster's Bar-B-Q, the concept that took over their space after they moved out. Rooster's is run by Rooster Beane, who once appeared on Man v. Food and ran Rooster's locations in Nashville and Granbury.

Sanford and Warren left Cresson and moved to the west side of Fort Worth, to a building on the Benbrook traffic circle once occupied by the Royal Falcon Pub. It fulfilled a longtime dream for Sanford to move the restaurant to Fort Worth, where he grew up.

But after COVID-19 hit, the restaurant suffered.

"When we first opened in Fort Worth, we did gangbusters," Sanford says. "But COVID did serious damage that we could never repair. I could only be open at 25 percent capacity, but I still had to pay 100 percent of the rent."

Meanwhile, Rooster's Bar-B-Q moved out of the Texaco to a spot nearby, once occupied by Tumbleweeds BBQ.

With the space open and a new landlord who wanted them to return, it was too good of an offer to pass up.

"We hated to leave Fort Worth, we really did," Sanford says. "But we have such a strong following in Cresson — truck drivers and people along the highway, to people who work in the area, to the guys who race and work at the racetrack. We all know them and they all know us."