If it looks, smells and tastes exactly like Tom Hammond’s barbecue — then it is Tom Hammond’s barbecue.
If it doesn’t, you’re not getting the old-fashioned, slow-cooked Hammond experience.
As of early March, Tom Hammond is back in business cooking the style of barbecue he learned from his father, A.J. Hammond. Tom and his wife Linda are operating A.J.’s Original Barbecue, at 509 NE Big Bend Trail (Highway 67) in Glen Rose.
A.J.’s features barbecue, hamburgers, onion rings, french fries and brisket tacos. They also feature cobbler, bread pudding and pies. Everything is made from scratch, Linda said.
They are open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sundays. They will be open this Sunday as well, offering an Easter-only lunch that will include pork tenderloin, ham, yams and a green vegetable in addition to their regular menu.
Many longtime Glen Rose residents know the story of the popular restaurant, but others may not and could be confused because of the name.
Tom’s father A.J. Hammond, a former drill sergeant who was doing farm and ranch work here, started cooking barbecue in the 1960s.
“He started in his backyard here,” Linda Hammond said. “Me and Tom started in 1985.”
A.J. began a restaurant in the current location of Loco Coyote in Glen Rose, and Tom and Linda sold it in 2013.
Tom and Linda sold their original Hammond’s Barbecue in 1996. Later, it was sold to the current owner, Larry Higgins.
Linda explained that that restaurant, also on Highway 67, has no connection with Tom and Linda or their food recipes. The original agreement to sell the restaurant allowed that owner to keep the same name.
“They just kept the Hammond name, which was so confusing,” Linda said.
After Tom and Linda sold their Hammond Barbecue restaurant, they moved to Las Vegas.
“We were just burned out,” Linda said. “Tom loves the old West, and there’s a lot of that out there. We moved back (to Glen Rose) because my daughter and granddaughter were here.”
Their daughter, Elizabeth, opened Roadrunner Barbecue at what is now A.J.’s.
“We helped her get started,” Linda said. “She had this a little over a year, and it just got to be too much for her. Her husband was working in the oil field, and she wanted to spend time with her six-year-old daughter.”
Linda said that Elizabeth was trying to make them proud of her.
That’s when Tom and Linda got back in the game.
“You just don’t want to let something go that you put a lot into,” Linda said.
Tom and Linda’s son Aaron (also known as A.J., for Aaron Joe) lives in Austin. He is in the insurance business, and plays in a band. But he is starting to come to Glen Rose more and more to be involved in the business.
“He came to help us get this open. He is a very good chef,” Linda said. “Music is his first love. He can play any instrument. He has a degree in sound engineering. He’s working on a business degree online.”
“She really tried,” Linda said of Elizabeth’s year in business. “We took it back because we didn’t want to see it close, and we wanted to see the family tradition carry on. Hammond’s Barbecue has been around a long time, and they (customers) love it.”
“I’m doing this mainly as a tribute to my parents,” Tom said.
Tom said he cooks his barbecue using oak wood, and boy does it take time to get it right.
Tom starts cooking in the wee hours of the morning in the early part of each week, preparing for their business hours, which for now are limited to Friday through Sunday.
“Because of the way we cook it takes a while,” Linda said. “It’s a blend, but you have got to know how to do it right. He’s up here at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and back at 8 a.m. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s why it’s so good. That’s why people come from everywhere to eat here.”
Tom said he uses oak because it burns slowly.
“It’s 100 percent wood-cooked, and it takes a long time to make it 34 to 36 hours,” Tom said. “You better have a lot of patience. That’s the way my dad did it.”
Linda said they have had customers drop in from Michigan, California, Oregon, North Carolina — and even France. Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy has written about their food more than once.
Linda said they plan on being open on Thursdays sometime this summer, after Tom builds a second pit to cook more barbecue. They are also planning to add more to the menu in the fall, including fish and shrimp.