S Pg1 5-28 Butters in Texas Monthly Again_1.jpg

Butters BBQ owner, operator and Pitmaster Andrew Soto has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic for the most part, but is now facing a meat shortage that’s causing him to try maneuver yet another obstacle. The Mathis barbecue restaurant is nearing it’s three year anniversary.

MATHIS – Texas Monthly released their “Ultimate Guide to BBQ” this month, and once again they decided to include a Mathis favorite on their list of more than 200 Texas top barbecue stops.

If you look at the map provided in the special issue of the magazine, you’ll see one white dot in South Texas. And that dot is Butters BBQ, owned and operated by Pitmaster Andrew Soto and his family.

“There’s a hell of a lot of spots on there,” Soto said. That’s going to be this year’s guide to Texas barbecue. It breaks down the major cities like Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and where to find the best barbecue, and they have all of them – not just the top ones. There’s the top ones and the new spots so it’s a cool guide and has roadmaps and whatnot.

“If you look at the map, you can see they are all kind of congregated in the center, then there’s us way down on the bottom,” he added with a laugh.

When talking with Soto over the phone, he mentioned that he was on the road heading to Lockhart to grab some barbecue two hours away at Black’s BBQ, one of his favorite spots.

“It’s all about that brisket,” he added. “I remember going there last year, and they have damn good bark. I think they’re the oldest establishment in Texas if I’m not mistaken.”

He is not mistaken. 

According to their website, the Original Black’s Barbecue opened in 1932 in Lockhart and is the oldest barbecue joint in Texas. It’s also been owned by four generations of the Edgar Black family. Black’s is also on the illustrious list of “Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas” complied by the world’s only Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn for Texas Monthly.

The list comes out every four years, and Soto has had his eye on one of those top spots since they opened nearly three years ago.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering restaurants all over the country, Soto said closed his dining area but kept his drive-thru open and only opening over the weekend.

“We’ve had to make adjustments like letting people know to be a little more patient, but it didn’t affect us too much,” Soto said. “We’re still getting about the same amount of traffic, but it being this time of year it should be busier than it is, but we’ve managed to do okay so I can’t complain. It could be a lot worse. There’s places that might not make it or haven’t made it already.”

One thing that has affected Soto and Butters BBQ is the meat shortages that Texas is facing at the moment.

The shortage is due to the fact that a lot of meat packing plant workers have gotten COVID-19, causing many of the facilities to halt production or close down all together. At Corpus Christi’s STX Beef Company, formerly Sam Kane Beef Processors, seven employees tested positive for the virus.

Even Gov. Greg Abbott sent a “surge team” earlier this month to investigate coronavirus outbreak rates around Texas meatpacking plants in the Panhandle.

“My buddy who is a butcher was saying that the plants have the brisket – that’s not the issue. The issue is that some of the plants are shut down because their employees got sick with (COVID-19) so they just don’t have the manpower to distribute.

“They’re saving the briskets and turning them into hamburgers, which is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard in my life,” he laughed.

Soto added that select grade briskets, which are the lowest grade, are going for $4 to $5 a pound which is unheard of. The prime grade which he gets is now slightly more than $6 a pound. 

“You’re talking about an $80 or $90 brisket that still needs to be cooked and trimmed,” Soto continued. “It’s forced me to adjust my pricing on the brisket, and a lot of people are not going to like that, but it is what it is.

“I have to raise the price almost 40%. Hopefully they understand, and I think they will because when you go to H-E-B, there’s nothing there.”

He said he’ll be focusing on non-beef items such as pork and chicken as the barbecue joint moves through the pandemic.

“I can’t believe that it’s trickled down all the way from China, and it’s caused my brisket prices to go up,” he added. “It’s surreal, almost laughable. It’s just funny and crazy. Hopefully we’ll get some sort of normality back by the end of summer, but who knows?

“What I do know is that we’re still in the running for a top 50 spot next year.”

Recommended for you