Over the past few years, a vibrant barbecue scene has evolved on Fort Worth’s east side. You have Smokey’s Barbeque on East Lancaster, Uncle Willie’s BBQ on Miller Avenue and Mama E’s Bar-B-Que & Home Cooking on East Rosedale, and, if you keep heading southeast a few miles, you’ll hit Off the Bone, heralded by D Magazine as the best barbecue joint in North Texas. 

Leroy Wilson could be considered the unsung hero of this thriving little scene. 

Originally opened in west Fort Worth but now located in the heart of the east side, Wilson’s Bar-B-Q has received accolades from Texas Monthly, Fort Worth Weekly and the Star-Telegram, but still flies under a lot of our radars. Could be the restaurant’s visibility, or lack thereof. 

Unlike Smokey’s, which is on busy East Lancaster, and Mama E’s, which practically sits on I-35, Wilson’s is easy to miss, it’s so small. At the intersection of Loop 820 and Brentwood Stair Road, on the northwest corner, look for the big sign and then you’ll see his small shack. 

Wilson, who opened the restaurant after friends gushed about the barbecue he cooked at parties, doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on adversiting. He sinks his money into his food, choosing to focus on the quality of his smoked meats and not necessarily spreading the word about how good it is. 

“We haven’t hit the community hard,” says Wilson, 56, whose small staff numbers two to three employees. “We haven’t gotten out and walked the streets. I just don’t have the manpower. But the people who come in for the first time, they come back.” 

They come back for tender brisket, smoked overnight for up to 10 hours, spare ribs, sausage and bologna, all of which are smoked over mesquite in a J&R Manufacturing wood-fired pit. Two sides are available: baked beans and housemade potato salad. Wilson’s wife often makes sweet potato pie. 

“I want to keep it simple,” says Wilson, who maintains a day job as an office assistant at Tarrant County College, where he has worked 28 years. “I want to focus on doing a few things right, not a lot of things wrong.” 

The inside of Wilson’s is simple, too, with enough room for 14 people. Most customers get take-out orders or zip through the drive-through window. 

The restaurant’s arrival on the east side two years ago came on the heels of a four-year stay on the west side, on Lovell Street. There, Wilson developed a solid following, handling catering for several TCU tailgate parties and winning a best barbecue award from Fort Worth Weekly. 

A property dispute led him to close, however, and a year later, he moved into his current location, a former soul food restaurant. 

Ultimately, maybe after he retires from TCC, he wants a new pit and longer hours; he’s talking 24 hours. “I figure if the brisket’s here cooking, I might as well be here selling,” he says. 

But for now, he’s taking things slow, keeping it simple. “We’ll never have a big menu here. I’ll never try to start doing things that I don’t know how to do,” he says. “If I had a lot of money, I would have made a lot of mistakes. Not having a lot of money has allowed me to focus on doing what I do best.” 

Originally published September 28, 2012. Update: This restaurant is now closed.