Throughout this week, we're sharing DFW.com contributor Malcolm Mayhew's profiles of five people who are making their mark in North Texas barbecue. Our final installment introduces us to Leroy Wilson, who keeps it simple in his small east Fort Worth joint, Wilson's Bar-B-Q. Our previous installments profiled Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge in Dallas; the family who runs Hickory Stick BBQ in Everman; the woman behind the sign at Mama E's in Fort Worth, and Bryan McLarty, a Southlake man who takes his smoking skills around the region in competition barbecue events. And don't miss Malcolm's quick snapshots of some other favorite North Texas BBQ restaurants.
Mama E's BBQ is an anomaly in North Texas barbecue circles for one very simple reason: Mama.
While running a barbecue restaurant is widely considered, perhaps unfairly, to be man's work, Ernestine "Mama" Edmond has been doing it for seven years. Her daughter Gina and granddaughter Nicole help, along with her husband, Sammy, but most of the time, Mama E's is a one-woman show.
"A lot of people are surprised by that," she says. "Some people think it's just a name, but, no, that's me back there working the pit, working the brisket. I figured out a way for me to load a 16-17-pound brisket into the pit -- long forks and long turns."
Mama E's occupies a tiny shell that once housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken, as well as the regarded east side stop Frank's BBQ; there are four tables inside. The menu is written daily on a dry-erase board. Along with barbecue, Edmond serves daily specials, such as meatloaf, pork chops and fried catfish.
But barbecue is Edmond's specialty -- and the reason why her kids and friends encouraged her to go into the restaurant business. Using a small outdoor firebox to fuel her indoor pit, she uses a combination of woods -- mesquite, oak and pecan -- in an effort to set her barbecue apart from other restaurants.
"Some people try to figure it out, 'Is that mesquite?' 'Is that oak?' 'Is that pecan?' No, it's all three," says Edmond, who was raised in Temple and has lived in Fort Worth since the 1970s. "I wanted to do something a little different, try to create a unique flavor."
Prices are reasonable (most plates are $9-$11), and portions are huge. As if she knows you're not going to be able to eat everything, food is served in to-go containers. Unless you specify otherwise, your spare ribs, brisket and sausage links will be draped in sauce. Mama E's is not the place to poke around for smoke rings or to admire meticulously rendered fat or to argue that good barbecue doesn't need sauce; you go to Mama's to get full.
"I believe in giving you what you pay for," she says. "You're not going to get a tiny piece of brisket or one itty-bitty rib. I'm going to fill you up."
Of the sides, the smooth textured potato salad is outstanding, and so are the mini-pies, served in small aluminum-foil pie pans.
Edmond is on the eve of turning 60. That's about the time that most people start thinking about retiring, about slowing down and settling down.
"I'm going in the opposite direction," she says with a chuckle. "I am ready to open a second location."