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Groves corner barbecue served with side of convenience

Where there was once a vacant lot, now savory smoky smells waft through the air at the corner of Hogaboom and Port Neches Road, beckoning passersby to stop and sample fare from a big iron pit.

Opened just a week ago on a corner lot near Huntsman, Clayboys Smokepit offers pork ribs, barbecue brisket, and all the trimmings straight from the pit.

Owners Chris and Clay Pellout of Groves said they’d been thinking about opening a simple barbecue stand for some time when a layoff helped make up their minds.

“Clay lost his job at an inspection company, so he had time to help me do this,” Chris Pellout said Tuesday.

The couple plans to utilize prior restaurant experience to make the roadside pit a go, but wants to keep it simple — just good food offered in a convenient manner.

But, don’t think that means it’s easy. The couple said preparing the day’s barbecue is a 24-hour event — they start cooking the night before around 10 p.m.

The next morning they hitch onto the pit and pull it to the vacant lot that was once an eyesore in the community, serve barbecue through lunch, then take the pit home and start the process all over again.

From the roadside, it beckons people to pull in and get a good bite to eat.

Julie Mantellini of Grovs lives right down the street. On Tuesday, she opted to pull into the corner smokepit for a plate of Texas-style barbecue.

“I turned down the street, was going home to make a sandwich out of cold lunch meat and decided this would be much better,” Mantellini said while ordering a plate.

The Pellouts have been barbecuing for about 20 years, and by now have perfected recipes — some their own, and others in tribute to the man who once owned the pit.

Prior to his death about 10 years ago, the pit was owned by William T. Hart, a good friend of the Pellout’s. Not only was Hart an excellent cook, he could draw.

On the side of the pit is a self-portrait drawing rendered by Hart right before he passed away, Clay Pellout said.

“It is a caricature of himself, that his wife gave. We had it airbrushed and put on the pit in his memory,” Clay Pellout said. “if he was here today, he’d be right here helping up.”

Since they’ve been open, Chris Pellout said the stand has stayed busy. Even the record setting heat did not deter customers from stopping to sample a portion of barbecue served with its own brand of heat.

Clayboys is open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday for the lunch hour, though they may extend the hours in the future.

skoonce@panews.com