Hutchins BBQ Reopens McKinney Restaurant

The long-awaited reopening of Hutchins BBQ in McKinney is projected to reopen at the end of August. McKinney area residents have been feverishly awaiting this event – and with all this enthusiasm stirring – fans and foodies better get crackin’ to be the first in line.

This year-round phenomenon is simply a way of life here in Texas… and no one knows BBQ better than the Hutchins Family. For years, they have been serving top-notch smoked meats and made-from-scratch sides and desserts. People have come to know and love Hutchins BBQ as “The King” of BBQ – and patrons’ line up outside to prove it. So, when you find yourself craving authentic Texas-style barbeque, make your way to one of the greatest BBQ joints around — visit Hutchins BBQ in Frisco or McKinney.

Over the years, family-owned Hutchins BBQ has received a slew of accolades from various publications, patrons, and establishments. Their excellence in the BBQ culinary circuit is well-founded and renowned. They have been recognized as one of the 50 best BBQ joints in the world and they were invited to cook dinner for the James Beard House — twice! This honor is bestowed upon only a select few, and Hutchins BBQ is proud to be among them.

Trey Hutchins, one of the four partners, said he has been a part of the business since he was a young boy, and he was – quite frankly – born into barbeque world. “We promote authentic Texas barbeque year-round, by attending a variety of events,” Hutchins said. He continued, that his barbeque contenders are undoubtedly his friends, and that the competitions are more like sibling rivalries. You’ll find Trey to be a family man, kind and very modest when it comes to his craft.

The Frisco restaurant sits back a bit from the road, and the custom-made barbeque smokers are lined up a mile long, or so it seems. From the expansive parking lot, the sweet smell of smoked meat permeates the air, and even the slightest hankering for barbeque is immediately elevated to an all-new high.

The rustic charm of Hutchins is warm and inviting. Behind the weathered exterior, you’ll find a cozy interior with complete nicks and the scratches that are clear sign the tables have been frequently occupied. The wood paneled walls are adorned with black and white photos, each telling a story of fond memories of days gone by. These permanent markers simply add to the overall character and appeal of the restaurant.

At first glance, the choice of meats may seem like typical fare of any barbeque establishment — but Hutchins BBQ is far from typical or ordinary! They undeniably rise above the competition by serving only hormone-free, never frozen meats which are slowly smoked over 100% wood-burning pits. They start with post oak and finish with pecan woods. The meats are then sliced to order on a butcher block countertop near the entrance of the restaurant.

There are so many meat choices, no one could ever walk away hungry. Some of the selections include tender sliced or chopped brisket, pulled pork, ribs, succulent turkey, juicy chicken and even made-from-scratch sausage that is produced in-house — to mention just a few.

The freshly prepared side dishes are made in-house and are plentiful, satisfying and scrumptious too. A few distinctive options include broccoli salad, potato casserole, corn, and the most lip-smacking side of all – their version of the world-famous Texas Twinkies. These enormous jalapeños are stuffed with cheese and brisket and wrapped in thick-cut bacon. What’s not to love?

While dining in, staff members flitter around the restaurant ensuring that all guests are well attended to. The employees are happy, helpful and they are committed to providing each patron with a favorable dining experience. Many of the staff members have spent their entire career with Hutchins BBQ. Hutchins said that “you cannot pay passion,” and his employees are just like family.

No meal at Hutchins would be complete without topping it off with one of their exemplary free desserts for dine-in customers. The dessert counter offers a rich banana pudding that is generously topped with vanilla wafer cookies. The warm, deep-dish peach cobbler is an all-time favorite, and it is often topped with vanilla ice cream that’s close by and always readily available.

Hutchins BBQ relies almost entirely on word-of-mouth advertising. While they have seen a great deal of success in the four decades they have been in business, Hutchins said that the prosperity is merely an added bonus. His motivation is waking up to attending to his craft daily. “Our mission has always been about serving the highest quality smoked meats and sides while providing exceptional customer service,” he said.

Hutchins BBQ is open year-round, from 11am – 9pm with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can dine-in, order call ahead take-out or delivery from the Frisco location at 9225 Preston Road. The McKinney location is 1301 N. Tennessee St., McKinney.

Smoked brisket, Hutchins merchandise, gift certificates, sauces, seasonings and other tasty treats are available online at www.hutchinsbbq.com. Nationwide shipping makes online ordering easy and convenient.

The prices are reasonable and competitive. You can easily feed a family of four with their family pack for around $65, plus tax. For a larger crowd, the party pack feeds 6-8 and is another great choice for just $105. Hutchins also offers catering, and they have served crowds are large as 5,000 at these events.

As they say, everything is larger in Texas — and the partners’ plans for the future are definitely vast. They have been fabricating custom barbeque pits for some time, and they are targeted and on track to launch their own line – Hutchins Fabrication – in January 2022. Plans to break ground on an all-new facility are also in the works. The land is adjacent to the Frisco restaurant, and they have their sights set on breaking ground in approximately 18 months.

by Gina Wiklund

State Fair of Texas Health & Safety Briefing

30 Days Until Opening Day

Today marks 30 days until Opening Day and the State Fair of Texas team continues to work hard to ensure a safe environment for everyone during the Fair this year.

Big Tex needs every fairgoer to do their part and most of all, be respectful of others and do the right thing. The current health situation makes for a challenging backdrop for the 135-year State Fair of Texas tradition. Of course, we would love for everyone to attend the State Fair this year and continue the great family traditions that make the event special to so many, however, we understand that some will be hesitant. We ask that those who attend do so because they are willing to follow our health guidelines – not because it’s mandated, but because it’s the right thing to do.

During these times, we acknowledge that no event can be completely risk-free, and we’re counting on you to do your part to help us present as safe of an event as we can by following the below health guidance, which is subject to change:

Get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, thank you! If you’re not, now is the time to be protected for when the Fair’s Opening Day arrives. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for everyone, especially children under age 12 and others who cannot currently get vaccinated. It’s widely recognized that the vast majority of all current COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated people. While we will not (and cannot legally) require you to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter the Fair, if you’re not vaccinated and plan to attend, we urge you to do your research, talk to your doctor, and consider a vaccine, both for your safety and the safety of others. If you can’t get one beforehand, our friends at Dallas County Health & Human Services are offering free vaccines at Big Tex Circle from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. all 24 days of the State Fair. Dallas County plans to administer the Pfizer vaccine for those who are receiving their first dose (Note: As of August 23, 2021, the FDA has granted formal approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine). Dallas County will also have the Moderna vaccine available for people who are receiving their second dose of that vaccine. Dallas County is planning to offer an incentive of $20 in State Fair food and ride coupons to those who are eligible and receive their vaccine while at the Fair.

Make an informed decision about attending the Fair. Before you visit, make sure you’ve considered your personal health situation and how you can best keep yourself and those close to you safe and healthy. The Texas Department of State Health Services has a comprehensive webpage on COVID-19 with the latest information on testing, vaccinations, symptoms, what to do if you feel ill, protecting yourself and others, and more. Visit https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/ for more information.

Wear a face covering. Masks protect everyone. Plan to bring a mask for yourself and everyone in your party with you to attend the 2021 State Fair of Texas. Wear a mask in the following settings if you are older than age 2 and medically able to wear one:

  • Indoors, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. As of August 25, given the current situation with increasing COVID cases in Dallas County and the current Dallas County order on the Required Use of a Face Mask in Certain Public Space, masks will be required when indoors. Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, regardless of your vaccination status, can help protect you and everyone in close proximity to you.
  • Outdoors in crowded settings, especially if you are not vaccinated.
  • At some independent vendor booths who may require everyone in their booth to wear a mask.

We are largely an outdoor event with plenty of eating and drinking. Approximately 80% of the State Fair is held in outdoor settings. Mandating masks fairgrounds-wide would be extremely difficult for our organization to enforce, so we are urging you to pitch in and do your part by following the above guidelines. Particularly if you go inside, simply put a face covering on for the time you’re shopping, attending a show, or visiting an exhibit.

Again, we ask that you bring your own mask with you to the Fair, but if you forget yours, we’ll have a supply at our gates for you. Just ask the gate attendant when you enter or at an information booth on the fairgrounds.

Wear a face covering if you take DART to the Fair. Many guests arrive at the Fair via DART or other forms of mass transit. Federal regulations require all public transportation passengers to wear masks while they are waiting for and on a train (those under age 2 or who are medically not able to tolerate a mask are exempt). Rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft may have their own mask requirements.

Social distance. Please spread out when you can and wear a mask when you can’t. The fairgrounds are huge, and most activities are outdoors where social distancing is much easier. We’ve created more space in some high-traffic areas and we are adding many more outdoor seating areas. If one area of the Fair is busy, explore new places. Wherever you go, there’s plenty to eat, to do, and to see.

  • Consider attending on a weekday instead of a weekend. Weekdays traditionally are much less crowded than weekends and attending on a weekday provides you with many discount admission offers. 

Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands frequently. More than 500 free hand sanitizer stations are made available by the State Fair throughout the fairgrounds. Plus, there are hand sanitizing stations throughout the barns and livestock areas, where it’s especially important to wash your hands after visiting the animals.

Stay home if you’re not feeling well or you’ve had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Get tested and get well before you visit the Fair. If within the 14 days before you attend the Fair you have tested positive or presumptively positive for COVID-19, experienced any related symptoms or been in direct contact with or in the immediate vicinity of any person who is confirmed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, even if you do not have symptoms, please stay home.

Most of all, please respect your fellow fairgoers. We’re all in this together. And please remember that some operators may be short-staffed due to labor shortages. Please practice patience and be kind to those who showed up to work and serve you at the great State Fair of Texas.

Please visit the CDC’s website for more information on how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

CDC guidelines for non-vaccinated individuals:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus that can lead to severe illness and even death. An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place regardless of precautions that may be taken. By entering the fairgrounds, you voluntarily assume all risks, hazards and dangers related to exposure, contracting and/or transmitting COVID-19, and voluntarily waive all claims and suits against the State Fair of Texas.

All information is subject to change. We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate updates as Opening Day draws closer. All health and safety updates will be posted to BigTex.com/COVID.

The 2021 State Fair of Texas opens on Friday, September 24 and runs through Sunday, October 17. You can purchase season passes and premium tickets online at BigTex.com.

The Sky Tower at Choctaw Casino and Resort

With leisure air travel escalating this summer, airlines have been struggling to keep up with the demand. This resurgence has had a huge impact on air passengers alike. From the long lines at airport ticket counters, to thousands of delays, and cancellations — air travelers are frustrated, exhausted and in some cases downright angry.

But many astute Americans have chosen to avoid the chaos at airports and have taken to the roadways instead. Metroplex area residents should follow this lead and take the short drive north to visit the new $600+ million expansion of Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma.

This new addition, The Sky Tower, officially opened the weekend of August 6, 2021. The festivities and events included $1 million in cash drawings, live entertainment, photos ops, a DJ in The District, and a spectacular firework display. The grand opening celebration will continue through the end of August 2021 with an additional $800,000 in cash giveaways. 

If you missed the grand opening shindig, don’t despair… the celebration was merely a kickoff for what’s to come! The 21-story Sky Tower has raised the roof in more ways than one. From sophisticated and modern hotel rooms, to gaming, top-notch entertainment, dining, and fine art commissioned by local Choctaw artists – the flurry of action and activities is unlimited. Everyone in your group will be satisfied and contented – even the children!

From the outside, the main entrance of the Tower is grand and impressive. With the stately circular driveway, it’s easy to imagine stretch limos arriving with famous, prominent, or celebrated guests. In the coming months, some of those live entertainers include Clint Black, Carrie Underwood, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Dave Matthews Band. If you have an interest in any of the upcoming entertainment, act fast – tickets are selling out at warp speed.

The old and new sections of the resort are seamlessly connected. However, the first note of distinction is that the new section is completely smoke-free, and it will remain as such for the foreseeable future. Every single detail was well planned, researched and employees had a voice in the final selections of their work areas. With the tasteful design, even most esteemed guests will be dazzled. The stunning decorations include bright, colorful fresh floral arrangements in varying shapes and sizes. The décor is contemporary, opulent, and eye-catching. The walls and walkways are lined with a world class collection of paintings, drawings, and sculpture — created solely by Choctaw artists. Several works were exclusively commissioned for the new tower, and hotel guests receive a guide to the expansive collection upon check-in.

If you choose to spend the night, you’ll sleep easy in any of the impeccable and luxuriously appointed, spa-like accommodations. The Sky Tower includes 1,000 rooms ranging from luxury suites, traditional king, or double queen beds, as well as hospitality suites. Many amenities are included, such as HDTV, complimentary Wi-Fi, a coffeemaker, and free parking.

Novice and experienced gamblers alike will enjoy the expansive, well maintained and fully staffed gaming floor. Guests can spin the reels at any of the 3,300 classic, progressive, or high-stakes slot machines.

If you are seeking some live action, check out the 40 new table games that include craps, roulette, baccarat, pai gow, and everyone’s favorite – blackjack. Also, an all-new 30-table poker room with its own dedicated staff and guest services will ensure a good time is had by all.

Many bars and lounges are strategically placed throughout the resort. For a unique game-day experience, check out The League Bar, a quintessential hot spot for sports enthusiasts. The League houses 88 big screen TVS, and an unforgettable 100-foot video wall that weighs in at more than 13,000 pounds! Sports themed artwork from local Choctaw artists also adorns the walls. In the center of the gaming floor is Prizm Lounge. Designed as a central meeting place, it’s the perfect spot for guests to reunite with others in their party. Don’t miss the astonishing surface that separates light into an immersive spectrum of color.

In addition, The Sky Tower has an array of shopping, eating, and entertainment venues. It includes 2 new retail shops, 3 new restaurants, 2 new movie theaters with reclining seats and a three-acre tropical oasis – Aqua. This swimming and lounging paradise has an adult-only with swim-up bar and a family friendly pool with waterslides. Four outdoor areas for food and drinks round out the Aqua experience.

Due to weather-related construction delays, Aqua is closed, but is expected to open soon.

The two new retail shops are Envi, a premier boutique that carries designer merchandise and Essentials, a retail shop for Choctaw-branded souvenirs, apparel and assorted snacks and sundries. When hunger sets in, be sure to visit Salt & Stone for round-the-clock eats that feature the “SALT” (surf) and “STONE” (turf). Boasting unparalleled flavor and exquisite luxury is 1832 Steakhouse. The menu includes a vast selection of fine wines, and the unequaled steak and seafood dishes are expertly plated. Reservations are strongly suggested, and the restaurant is only open for dinner.

The entire Choctaw Casino and Resort is profusion of fun, food, and festivity. Whether visiting for business or pleasure, the merriment and cheerfulness abound. The people are friendly and accommodating, and each inquiry is answered with a smile.

No stay is complete though, without visiting the all-new Choctaw Cultural Center. Just minutes from the resort, the Cultural Center and is a lesson in the rich culture, history and experiences of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and its community.

Today, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is thriving with nearly 200,000 people. They celebrate a vibrant heritage of resilience and spirit. Their mission is to empower each Choctaw to live a life filled with possibility. Some of their business endeavors help support the health and education of Choctaws.

by Gina Wiklund

Finalists Announced for 2021 Big Tex Choice Awards

big tex choice awards

Ten lip-smacking and delectable deep fried dishes have been chosen as this year’s finalists for the 17th annual Big Tex Choice Awards. The contestants will each present their creations to a distinguished panel of celebrity judges at the event on Sunday, August 29. Entries are divided into three distinct categories: best sweet, best savory and most creative. Judges may select from either the sweet or savory category for the most creative entry.

Each crazy, creative, concoction will be evaluated on four distinct components: uniqueness, creativity, presentation, and taste. From brisket brittle to Pork Shots to the Lucky Duck Dumplin’, judges will taste-test and cast votes on their favorite deep-fried dishes..

The ten finalists hoping to secure a win are:

Savory Finalists

Crispy Crazy Corn, Ruth Hauntz

Individually battered sweet whole kernel corn fried and dusted with a secret seasoning, and topped with slowed-smoked pulled pork, tangy pineapple slaw and dribbled with freshly made jalapeño crema and fresh cilantro.

Deep Fried I-35, Clint and Gretchen Probst

A fried brisket kolache drizzled with a peach and Dr. Pepper infused BBQ glaze served with a dusting of powdered sugar and sliced peaches.

Deep Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls, Gourmet Royale

Seafood gumbo balls packed with Gulf Coast shrimp, blue crab meat, stewed chicken, and andouille sausage, that are rolled in saltine cracker and breadcrumb mixture. Served with a dark roux, chicken fried okra spears, saltine crackers and a small bottle of hot sauce.

Lucky Duck Dumplin’, Bert Concessions

A pastry dumpling filled with duck bacon that is blended with with cream cheese, sweet corn and herbs and spices. Served with a mild, and slightly sweet Thai chili glaze.

Pork Shots, Glen and Sherri Kusak at Hans Mueller

Pork sausage wrapped in hickory smoked bacon and stuffed with creamy mac and cheese. The outside is sprinkled with a secret spicy BBQ rub.

SWEET

The Armadillo, James Barrera

A cookie butter ice cream sandwich that includes two deep fried Armadillo-shaped cookies filled with cookie butter semifreddo, drizzled with cookie butter and dusted with sugar.

Brisket Brittle, Ruth Hauntz

Similar to old-fashioned peanut brittle, but the peanuts are replaced with smokey Texas brisket. Just a hint of heat.

Deep-Fried Halloween, Isaac Rousso

A deep-fried pretzel soaked in candy corn syrup and topped with colorful sprinkles, powdered sugar, and orange and white buttercream icing before being stacked with Halloween favorite candies, then drizzled with both a chocolate and caramel sauce.

Fernie’s Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake, Winter Family Concessions

Lightly glazed cake doughnut chuncks, English toffee bits, and almonds mixed with custard, then dipped in an egg product and rolled in panko and vanilla cookie crumbs. Once fried, it is sprinkled with powdered sugar, toffee tidbits and a mocha coffee whipped cream. Topped off with a miniature chocolate covered toffee bar.

Texas Pumpkin Poke Cake, Michelle Edwards

A Texas-shaped pumpkin cake with vanilla glaze and caramel, topped with whipped cream, and dusted with a secret spice.

This year’s Big Tex Choice Awards event will be closed to the public. However, the event will be broadcast during a Facebook Live event: https://www.facebook.com/events/462057132191796/

Be sure to sample these tempting treats at the fair this year. You’ll be glad you did! The 2021 State Fair of Texas begins Sept. 24 and runs through Oct. 17 at Fair Park, in Dallas, Texas.

by Gina Wiklund