When people think of summer, they often think of barbecue. But to O.B. Crayton and his wife Harriett who operate Crayton’s BBQ food truck in Magnolia, barbecue isn’t limited to one season.
“People love barbecue just as much in the winter as the summer,” O.B. Crayton said. “Right now, they don’t want to have to be out in the heat. I’ve got one guy who has a big grill like mine, and he tells me he just comes and gets the barbecue from me rather than fire his grill up.”
The Crayton’s have spent most of their lives cooking for both pleasure and practicality. O.B. Crayton is a self-taught barbecue cook who was formerly married to a woman he said wasn’t a good cook. He said this made him play around in the kitchen and learn how to make his own food and he fell in love with it.
“It also made me vow to never eat Hamburger Helper ever again,” he said, laughing. “We used to have it three times a week, and I like to cook because I like to eat.”
O.B. and Harriett have been married for 28 years now. Crayton said it was his wife who started the business because she would grill leg quarters and cook sides for plates to be sold on Fridays at his job, Albemarle Corporation. The orders began with about 15, but sales grew quickly to 60 plates.
Later she cooked meals for their former church, Full Gospel Holy Temple.
Crayton’s BBQ Express
Before he retired, he and his wife opened a restaurant called Crayton’s BBQ Express. They sold barbecue and soul food at 617 S. Jackson Street, and operated it for about nine years. However, the restaurant was given to their daughter, Ashley Lambert. She is a lawyer who owns her own food truck, The Tipsy Turkey Shack. She sells turkey legs stuffed with various ingredients along with other fares. The restaurant, Crayton’s BBQ Express, was closed and did not reopen after the pandemic.
Now, the Crayton’s have been operating their present and updated food truck for about six months. The number one seller has been brisket followed closely by ribs. Other more unusual items to some food cravers include smoked turkey necks and pig’s feet. Recently, O.B. Crayton smoked 40 pigs’ feet for one order.
Sides and More
Harriett Crayton makes the side items and dares anyone who says they don’t like potato salad to try hers. It’s made with traditional ingredients but has a mixed mayonnaise and mustard base. She also makes baked beans, collard greens, yams, macaroni and cheese, and hot water cornbread.
In addition, she makes the items good for those with a sweet tooth. Some of the most popular items include peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, chocolate cake, and pound cake.
“If you don’t have a passion and put love into it, it won’t be good no matter what you do,” Harriett Crayton said.
Her husband agreed.
“When she is tired, I don’t let her cook anything because it wouldn’t be the same.”
O.B. noticed a long time ago that he can give someone the same ingredients and teach them how to cook the item just like he does, but it won’t taste the same to customers who frequent his food truck.
“They will say, you didn’t cook it, you can give them the ingredients, but you can’t give them the love,” Crayton said.
Made with Love
The top sellers of the food truck – brisket and ribs – takes the longest time to prepare, about 11 to 12 hours. O.B. cooks those in his grill the night before he takes his truck to the plaza across from the United Methodist Church in Magnolia which is on 320 W. Main Street. The plaza is also where the somewhat new Dollar General is located and Chick-A-Dilly.
Normally, the truck runs from 1 p.m. until the food is sold out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, the truck may appear in that parking lot on other days if he is ready with the barbecue.
The couple laughs because for years people have knocked on their door at home asking if they had any barbecue for sale. Harriett said the food is on the truck, not in her home.
But the home is where the heart is for all barbecue and wonderful sides.
“Grilling in the backyard is one thing and it doesn’t take much preparation, but most people don’t think about feeding the masses,” he said. “It’s very hard.”
Becky Bell is an award-winning newspaper writer who has worked at numerous newspapers including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Texarkana Gazette. Prior to becoming a freelance journalist, Becky worked in the Communications Department at Southern Arkansas University and served as University Editor. While working there, she also received a Master’s in public administration.
She is a dog lover and lives with her dog, Queenie Belle, a rescue Papillon-mix, in Magnolia, Arkansas. In her spare time, she volunteers for the Stew Pot at the United Methodist Church and attends Trinity Baptist Church. She also serves on the board of Compassion's Foundation Inc., which helps victims of domestic violence. She was born in Texarkana, Texas, and attended Texas High School where she first started writing stories for the Tiger Times.