The small town of Princeton, Texas sits between McKinney and Greenville. Most people that experience Princeton, do so from the highway and the convenient stretch of chain restaurants and gas stations that it provides. However, half a mile north you will find the true identity of Princeton. If Princeton had a downtown, it would be on Main Street in the shadow of the town’s water tower. The businesses located here, away from the highway, are local. The footprint of this commercial district is tiny with just a handful of buildings, but it is full of character.
Lander’s BBQ enjoyed enough notoriety from their mobile food trailer that was located along the highway just east of Princeton that they decided it was time to setup shop in a permanent location. As locals, they were already heavily involved in the community, participating in fund raisers and hosting local benefits. Conventional wisdom may have suggested placing that business along Highway 380 or moving towards McKinney, but with a desire to bring some life and pride to the community, a spot along Main Street was selected. Lander’s BBQ & Burgers hosted their grand opening in May 2014 with a live band, reflecting their desire to bring live music to Princeton as well.
On this Tuesday evening, Main Street was pretty quiet with the exception of a steady trot of people picking up to go orders from Lander’s. As a first time patron, I was greeted at the counter with a fresh sample of brisket. It whet my appetite for more meat and I ordered the brisket and added to it sausage and pulled pork. Ribs are unfortunately (for me) only available on Friday nights. Tonight’s meal would have to be eaten on the road, so I waited as my meat was cut and boxed for transportation.
My trio of meats came out arranged in three compartments with a side and sauce in separate containers.
I did not hesitate to begin with the brisket compartment as my sample bite whet my appetite for beef. The bark appeared to be lacking from the slices of beef but the black pepper was apparent. The brisket had plenty of smoke and exuded pecan wood. The heavy pecan flavor was complemented by the bite of black pepper. The slices were a little too dry for me, but still held a good firm texture, that pulled apart easily. This cut was pretty well trimmed but the fat that remained was delicious. I would like to see more bark and a bit more fat, but this is a good brisket.
The pulled pork had some indication of smoke but there was very little flavor in this pile of meat. The meat was pretty bland and very dry. The dryness was surprising as it was hand pulled when I ordered it. This pork may have benefited from some more brining time or a stronger rub, but it certainly was not ready to stand on its own.
The sausage was a surprise to me. The presliced link looked similar to an Ecrich sausage you’d find in any grocery store. But it’s definitely not. This sausage is pretty good with some spiciness and plenty of flavor. It is an interesting link with a fine grind. The sausage is prepared well and has some smoke on it. The skin is not as snappy as you would like, but it is precut so that is not much of an issue.
As mentioned above, ribs are only available on Fridays at Lander’s. The daily menu features additional options of smoked bologna and turkey, along with the lauded hamburgers.
THE RESTThe sauce was rather thin with a deep maroon color adorned with pepper flakes. It is served warm and holds a strong tomato flavor with a bit of spiciness. I really like this sauce because of the amount of tomato it has. It is a good sauce and pairs well with the brisket, but it is unnecessary to add anything to that meat. Unfortunately, it could not help the pork.
The sides look lovingly crafted and not just pulled from a tub. I can speak for the creamed corn which is actually very good. The corn is very sweet but hides a peppery bite.
The interior of Lander’s BBQ is an industrial cave. With exposed ducts and bare brick, the building shows its age. The walls are simply decorated with license plates and an odd sign here and there. It’s a simple look, but that is intentional as there is no pretense in this building. People come here for the food and the person across the table. And possibly for the live music on the weekends. Lander’s has a small stage near the entrance dedicated to their mission of bringing live music to Princeton.
Lander's does two turns each day of operation, with lunch hours and dinner hours posted. As is the norm, they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Lander’s BBQ & Burgers is definitely a cool joint and the kind of place that Princeton should be thrilled to have propping up the local scene. They are helping to invigorate the regional barbecue scene as well, offering some meat that is worth the drive. They really hit what matters most with a solid entry of brisket. This brisket redeems the completely skippable pulled pork while the sausage serves as a trustworthy partner. The ribs are a Friday only special, so for now I will leave that as a wild card.
Princeton has a winner in Lander’s and if that does not put Princeton on the map, maybe having a local Powerball winner will…