For the family behind one of Texas’ favorite barbecue restaurants, a change planned this month is really just going home.
The famous Mobberly Avenue Bodacious Bar-BQ will get a new pitmaster on June 14 – someone who first fell in love with a member of the founding family and, later, with the family craft.
He’s also someone who doesn’t yet feel quite comfortable with the title of pitmaster: Spencer Halling is married to Madilynne Lindsey-Halling, the oldest grandchild of Bodacious founders Roland and Nancy Lindsey.
Roland Lindsey started the restaurant on Mobberly Avenue in 1968. The Lindseys’ restaurants spread over the years, with 16 locations now. The restaurants’ sauces, rubs and spices are also sold commercially. Roland died close to four years ago, and his original Mobberly Avenue store has passed through other hands.
“For us, we’ve had a lot of wonderful people at (the Mobberly Avenue restaurant),” Madilynne said, saying the family gives them “all the props and credit.” Most recently, Adam Bradford and his wife, Paloma, ran the restaurant. When they decided to leave, it opened the doors to the next phase in the store’s life.
“I just think there’s nothing like family, for us to go home – that’s how it feels,” Madilynne said.
And her grandmother – they work together in the restaurants’ corporate office – agrees.
“It means a lot because we walk into that building, and it feels like we’re home, so that’s the feeling we get, and to have family there working is going to be really a good feeling,” Nancy said.
Spencer and Madilynne moved back to Longview from Arkansas about three years ago. At that time, Spencer started working at the Gladewater Bodacious.
“I planned just to work at one of the restaurants and go to school most of the time, but I started working in Gladewater,” he said. Within about a month, the person who had been running it decided to move on, he said.
“I kind of just offered to fill that role and just kind of went along for the ride,” Spencer said.
He was shown the basics of how everything works, and Nancy said he received help from other Bodacious operators and pitmasters. The more he learned, the more it interested him. He started reading books, many books, and watching videos.
Spencer grew to love the family art form, and three years later, he thinks his fare is a lot better than when he started. But he was hesitant to call himself a pitmaster.
“I don’t know if I’ve earned that title,” he said.
His wife and her grandmother, though, praise what he does at the barbecue pit.
“He’s too humble for his own good,” Madilynne said. She said she navigated the challenges of COVID-19 and then struggles with supply and demand. As some of the meats the restaurant typically used weren’t always available, he became good at making all kinds of different foods in all kinds of different ways, she said. He weathered those challenges well, she said.
“I definitely think he’s perfected the craft,” Madilynne said.
She added they’ve heard good things from customers about the quality, consistency and good customer service in Gladewater, with the restaurant pulling customers from other East Texas cities. Plans are in the works regarding the future of the Gladewater restaurant.
“He makes really, really great barbecue,” Madilynne said, complimenting Spencer’s jalapenos stuffed with brisket.
“Really, everything he makes, I couldn’t protest. The turkey is my favorite staple, ”she said, but she also loves his pork belly specials.
“That’s a fan favorite,” she said.
Nancy agreed with the assessment of Spencer’s skills at the pit.
“He cooks a great brisket and turkey breast. People just rave about his turkey breast, ”she said.
Bodacious has always been a family affair, with children and grandchildren growing up there. Nancy said Shelly Butler, their beloved “niece-daughter,” will be working some at the Mobberly location as well.
The upcoming changes are “special” to the Lindsey family, Madilynne said.
“Our family’s been quite emotional about it,” she said.