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Taste of Texas
302 East Ave.
Holdrege, NE 68494

112 W. 11th St.
McCook, NE
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Bringing big, bold barbecue to Nebraska
article and photos by Roni Lewis

Taste of Texas, McCook, NE

They say everything is bigger in Texas. So why not bring the big, bold taste of barbecue to the Cornhusker state? That’s what James Arp, owner of Taste of Texas, and his wife Robbie did 14 years ago, and now he invites you to strap on your boots for his legendary barbecue brisket and ribs.

James was born in Omaha, but when he was 16, his family moved to Texas. There he began a career as a superintendent for an electrical contractor. Needing a break after a large project, he visited family in southwest Nebraska and fell in love with the area. The Arps were on their way home when James told Robbie it sure would be nice to get out of Houston. They could open a barbecue restaurant, he joked.
“We laughed about it,” he says. But the more he thought about it on their long way back to Texas, the more he thought the idea just might work.

Taste of Texas, McCook, NEA couple days later, James told Robbie they really should think about making the move to Nebraska and to pray on it. The couple decided to put their house on the market, and if it sold, they would know that God wanted them to start fresh in Nebraska. They called their real estate agent. “You’re crazy,” she said. “No one will pay that price.” 

They didn’t think it would happen either, but a week later, their real estate agent called. There was an offer on the house, the very first person who looked at it. The offer was full price. It was time to go.

Off to Nebraska

The Arps moved to Nebraska with a plan to start an electrical contracting business or a barbecue business. When they arrived in McCook, they found an empty restaurant for lease. James thought he could get the barbecue business started, and then get his electrical business up and going. Now, 14 years later, the Taste of Texas has expanded to two locations and the electrical business is still on the back burner.

Taste of Texas, McCook, NEThe barbecue business came easy to James as he did a lot of entertaining for clients and employees in Texas. He received acclaim from his family, friends and co-workers in Texas, and is receiving the same acclaim in McCook and Holdrege.

The Holdrege Taste of Texas is larger than the McCook store, but you feel welcomed by the Texas charm from the first step in the door. It has a family atmosphere because Taste of Texas is family, with Robbie and sons Mike and Berl working alongside James in Holdrege. James’ brother and nephew take care of the McCook location.

Slow-smoked perfection

Taste of Texas, McCook, NEThe Arps have a passion for great food, and it comes out in the barbecue. They specialize in slow, smoked barbecue, and the big, bold flavors of Texas come through in every single bite.  Realizing not everyone enjoys the hearty rich flavors of slow smoked barbecue, Taste of Texas has developed a menu as diverse as any you will find in south central Nebraska. “We have something for everybody,” James says.

Taste of Texas is known for savory, sweetly tangy brisket and finger-licking, don’t-care-if-I-get-sauce-all-over-my-face, can’t-get-enough ribs. But the chicken, chicken-fried chicken and the chicken-fried steak hold their own. And Taste of Texas pushes the limit with its burgers, such as the bet-you-can’t-beat-bacon cheeseburger. The richly marbled steaks are seasoned with robust perfection and succulent to the very last bite.

The Texas-sized portion of sides, ranging from potato salad to cole slaw, baked beans to mac and cheese, are the perfect complement to the slow-smoked goodness of any meal you order.

Southern hospitality

Taste of Texas brings out the best in service, showing that southern hospitality is alive and well in Nebraska.

Taste of Texas, McCook, NE“I have great employees,” James says. Many of the employees have been with him since he started Taste of Texas. And the business is now working towards second-generation employees.

James says he is selling four things at Taste of Texas — service, food, atmosphere and more great service. “Service is everything,” James says.

Taste of Texas offers catering and a party room, which holds 150.

“We try to provide fun, family friendly atmosphere, with good service and great food,” James says. “We just want everyone to have a good time.”

Roni Lewis is co-host of The Good Life, a  Nebraska television show highlighting people and places that contribute to the quality of life we cherish in central Nebraska. She also works as a reporter for the Oxford weekly newspaper, the Oxford Standard

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