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Buck and Ozzy's Last Chance

by John Raven, Ph.B. Buck and Ozzy snapshot

There is a new kid on the Texas Barbecue Restaurant scene. A little over a year ago, Buck and Ozzy's Last Chance opened on Highway 46 at Sun Valley Drive, which is about two and a half miles east of Highway 281. The "city" is listed as either Bulverde, Spring Branch or Smithson Valley, depending on where you look it up.

The restaurant is of interest to me, as it is owned and operated by Todd Page and Vickie Cooper, two children of the guy who was my best friend in Temple.

Homer "Cuzin Homer" Page and I worked for the same company when I first met him. We had a lot of interests in common and soon became good friends. When I started entering the chili cook-offs, I invited Homer to join me, as he had a good sense of humor and was great with people. When the barbecue cook-offs started taking off, Homer went in that direction, since he was a lot better at barbecue than he was at chili. Before long, Homer was winning contests and making a name for himself.

In the early 1980's, Homer decided to go into the barbecue business full time. He had a take-out caf built on a trailer and set up for business on South 57th Street in Temple. Before long business was booming and the rest, as they say, is history.

Homer's biggest assets in the barbecue business were his two children, Vickie and Todd. Vickie worked full time at the trailer and Todd, who was still in high school, worked when he could.

The guys who ran the sit-down barbecue joints in Temple did not take kindly to Homer's low overhead operation. They kept finding reasons he should not be allowed to operate out of the trailer. Finally Homer was forced to buy a building and put in a "real" restaurant. This was at the time interest rates were so high that making a profit was near impossible. The business paid the bills, but there was very little left over. While it was in operation, it was "The" barbecue joint in Central Texas.

Homer took a shot at the big time commercial barbecue contests. He and the kids traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, Richmond, Virginia and Minneapolis to participate. These ventures are a crapshoot at best, and Homer did not come away a big winner.

Homer's health began to fail and he closed his barbecue joint. Vickie kept busy working elsewhere and being a mother. Todd went off to get an education.

Flash forward twenty years or so
After finishing college, Todd Page found work in the food service industry. He was in the end that distributed foodstuffs to volume buyers. Vickie continued in various jobs and became a grandmother. [Author's note: Nah, Vickie is just a kid; she can't be a grandmother.]

After eleven years in the food service business, Todd decided it was time to decide what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. The decision was to open his own business. He freely admits the barbecue joint business was not a passion of his, but his decision to do barbecue was a business decision reinforced by a background that provided knowledge of the skills required.

Buck and Ozzy snapshot
Vickie Cooper and Todd Page
At age ten, Todd won the Junior Texas Men's State Chili Cooking Championship. By the time he was twelve, he was winning adult contests. His specialty was chili. His dad never did get the handle on making prize-winning chili. While Todd was in college, he won the thousand dollar first prize at the Temple, Texas Downtown Merchant's Barbecue Cook-Off. He did it again the following year. The cook-off was soon known as The Todd Page Scholarship Contest. Todd did not have help from his dad; Todd assembled his own team and did all that was required.

Buck and Ozzy's Last Chance is a new building, but Todd and Vickie have decorated it so that it looks like a years old establishment inside. All sorts of interesting things hang from the ceiling and the barn wood walls. Booths and tables abound.

The wait staff is very cordial and very much on the ball. But what I really like about the place is that you don't go through a cafeteria-style line to get your food. You order from a menu. Your food is not delivered on a piece of greasy butcher paper; you get a real plate and real flatware -- none of that plastic stuff.

You are not confined to the usual barbecue joint fare. Buck and Ozzy's has big burgers, salads, seafood and appetizers. The portions are generous, and you won't leave hungry.

I have confined my ordering to the barbecue menu so far. You have choice of brisket, sausage, ribs or chicken. The brisket is so tender you nearly need a spoon to eat it. The ribs have more meat on them than any others I have encountered, the sausage and chicken rank with the best.

I can't leave Vickie unacknowledged. Vickie is the Mother Hen of the whole operation. She can do anything that needs doing. Her humor is unfailing no matter how tired she may be. Vickie has her own recipe for the side dishes, which are the standard potato salad, beans and slaw. All are as good as you can get.

Brisket Preparation
Todd talked about the brisket preparation. He still uses the original pit and special events trailer that his dad towed all over the nation over twenty years ago. The briskets go on the pit for cool smoking for five or six hours. This imparts a definite smoke flavor to the product. After the smoking, the briskets go in low temperature finishing ovens for eight to ten hours or more. No foil is involved.

In my opinion, Buck and Ozzy's Last Chance is the benchmark by which other new barbecue establishments will be graded.

If you are within driving distance of Buck and Ozzy's, you owe it to yourself to stop in and sample some real Texas Cooking.

Buck and Ozzy are open the usual hours, except Mondays when they are closed.

Buck and Ozzy snapshot
Food Prep Area
Buck and Ozzy snapshot
The Cool Smoking Pit

Buck & Ozzy's Last Chance
1 Sun Valley Drive
Spring Branch, Texas 78070

Online Since 1997
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