The Cele Store in northeastern Travis County continues a barbecue tradition that goes back to dirt roads and farmers' tans, even though the head cook is only 29 years old. The lean brisket, spicy sausage, and succulent ribs are a carnivore's feast as old as Texas.
A few years after Texas became a state in 1846, the land east of Austin was settled by immigrant farmers. Communities like Pflugerville, New Sweden, Dessau, and Manor were formed around churches and general stores.
In 1891, the first owner of the Richland Saloon named his community after his daughter Lucille. By the time Marvin and Marilyn Weiss bought the general store, saloon, and gas station in 1951, the farm economy was in full swing. The Weisses sold everything from hardware to canned goods and candy. The locals came to discuss and cuss the weather and crop prices over coffee in the morning and cold beer in the afternoons.
In 1992, Marvin Weiss said, "[The barbecue business] started because the farmers wanted hot sausage on Friday afternoons to go with their beer." Pretty soon he added smoked brisket and ribs. As word spread, lunches at the store became very popular.
When Marvin passed away in 2007, the gas pumps were gone and the cans on the shelves were for decoration. The legend of Cele Store barbecue was going to be just a memory until Marvin's grandson decided to pick up the spatula. Brandon Fuchs grew up on the farm across the road from his grandfather's store. Soft-spoken and a man of few words like his grandfather, Fuchs also learned how to cook from his grandparents.
"It just seemed natural for us to open it back up after Grandpa died," Brandon says. His mother helps out as a waitress, and his grandmother comes by to entertain visitors with stories.
Popular with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and law enforcement officers cruising the country roads, the only clue for passersby is a rusted sign on the faded clapboard wall that says "Cele Community Center General Merchandise." Step through the door, and you step back in time. Above the bar hangs an autographed picture of Clint Eastwood that was left behind after he filmed scenes at the store – one of the building's many film credits.
Cele Store is at the corner of Cele and Cameron roads, about seven miles due east of Pflugerville and less than that from U.S. 130 and Kelly Road. The tattered screen door opens on Thursdays from 6 to 10pm for cold drinks only; on Friday from 6 to 10pm the bar is open and the kitchen serves Elgin sausage wraps; on Saturday the smoker is full from 10:30am to 1:30pm. Dinner is served on Saturdays by reservation only. No, they don't bring out the white tablecloths. "We just need to know how much meat to cook," Fuchs says. Give him a call at 512/251-3562 or visit www.celestore.com.
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