DALLAS — For too long, the nation’s travel centers have caught a bad rap for catering only to professional drivers and providing less-than-quality "gas station food." Victron Energy Inc. is challenging that misperception in the form of Texas Best Smokehouse, its travel center and convenience store arm that serves up homemade barbecue, an assortment of award-winning exotic jerky, and private brand items like gourmet snacks and candy — all in a family-oriented setting.
"Our goal is to give customers, travelers, commuters, truckers — whoever they may be — a memorable Texas experience, whether that’s greeting customers with, 'Howdy, welcome to Texas Best,' them tasting our delicious barbecue or our unique jerky, or buying some of our gift items," said Mohammed Sharaf, vice president of development. "Whatever it is, we want to give people the feel and impression of what it is uniquely Texas."
The Texas Best Smokehouse brand debuted less than a decade ago as the brainchild of Mohammed’s father, Ali, who founded the concept with a single convenience store. Ali was born in Syria, where he worked as a civil engineer before moving to the United States in 1986.
Recently, Texas Best Smokehouse opened its eighth and ninth locations in Henrietta and Dallas, respectively. Two additional sites are on the docket to be built within the next 18 months. Its facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
One of the new-build travel centers will be in a popular location in Grapevine, Texas, situated near Great Wolf Lodge and Gaylord Texan, one of the largest hotels in the Lone Star State. This travel center will be the first Texas Best Smokehouse to have a patio surrounding the travel center, plus it will feature the company’s first tunnel car wash.
"We look to customers to tell us what they want in terms of merchandising and food options, so it’s not the same across all stores," Mohammed said. "While the experience of Texas Best Smokehouse will always be the same, and guests know what to expect in terms of customer service and cleanliness, we absolutely cater to the locals and every store we build is different. We have no cookie-cutter model."
For instance, in Henrietta, the 17,000-square-foot travel center incorporates Texas flair with southern and western elements for an authentic feel. It features four eating establishments — all open daily until 10 p.m. — that provide customers with options from the familiar, such as Steak ‘n Shake, Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon, to homestyle with the company’s signature Texas Best BBQ program.
"A lot of people expect it to be gas station barbecue, but you’ll find that we like to deliver a restaurant-level quality, whether you’re dining in or on the go," Mohammed explained. "Often, people are coming in just to dine and enjoy the atmosphere, so we’re happy to offer that as well."
Another unique element of Texas Best Smokehouse’s offering is its awarding-winning jerky. The company has become known for its signature exotic jerky varieties, which span venison, bison, elk, python, kangaroo, rabbit, crocodile and crawfish. All of its jerky is produced in a facility the company owns and oversees in Italy, Texas.
Other amenities available at Texas Best Smokehouse are:
- Private brand fudge;
- Gourmet candy, snacks, jams, nuts, wine and energy drinks;
- Diesel gasoline;
- Fresh coffee;
- High-end trucker facilities; and
- Souvenir gifts.
"We love to give our customers an experience where they can go somewhere and say, 'Hey, I was traveling from Florida to California and I stopped at this Texas-style Smokehouse, a big, nice place on the interstate, and when I went in, they’ve got good barbecue, jams and meats.' This is the experience we want to be able to give them," Mohammed said.
Click on the photos below to go inside Texas Best Smokehouse.