Ayer is a small town in Massachusetts that’s less than an hour from Boston, but driving through it is like driving through Mayberry. All of the buildings look like something from a 1950s small town America, and right off Main Street is Tejano Loco BBQ, a mostly take out joint with just a few stools (and now two booths). The décor is Spartan, with only a few knick-knacks on the walls. There’s no bar and no alcohol served.
The menu consists of the barbecue staples (babyback and St Louis ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken) and not much else. They just added a Mexican menu that includes burritos, chimichangas and the like. After winning the chili challenge at the nearby Devens Grill, Tejano Loco now serves a brisket chili.
On my first visit to Tejano Loco for a Saturday lunch, a friend and I sampled all four of their barbecue meats and four different sides. We started by splitting two different sandwiches. Pulled pork was tender, chewy and fairly flavorful, with just enough barbecue sauce to keep it moist. I wished it had more bark and some vinegar flavor in the sauce, but this was Texas style and it was decent. Thickly cut brisket had a good flavor, with noticeable smoke, but was pretty dry. The St Louis ribs were fairly small and simple, with not a lot of rub, served unsauced. As is the case with Texas barbecue, these were natural tasting and slightly moist. Chicken, aside from a brushing of sauce on the skin, was also a little dry.
We returned a month later for a night visit, ordering a BBQ Feed for four ($31.50, includes 3 large sides and cornbread), plus a pulled pork sandwich ($7.40, includes one side). This time, the ribs were sauced and the chicken was not. The ribs were much more tender and fresh tasting than our first batch, with the meat fairly moist even aside from the sauce. The brisket, again cut in thick slices, had a little char on the outside and was more moist, with the same good smoky flavor. The chicken was solid, with crisp skin, slightly moist meat and a lighter smokiness than the brisket. The pulled pork was served in a container separate from the bun, allowing us to assemble the sandwich, a nice touch. It was again pretty good, with bigger pieces and more bark than last time. Overall, this was not only a significant upgrade over the lunch we had earlier, but a very enjoyable barbecue meal.
There was just one sauce, a thick, ketchupy concoction with a little spice and a lot of molasses. It was decent, but I wish they had more choices. Hot sauces are available at the counter.
Sides were a mixed bag. Cole slaw was finely chopped, minimally dressed, with a lot of cilantro. Potato salad had more mayo but less cilantro. Beans were pale and bland. Fries were thickly cut, hot and crisp. Cornbread, available with or without jalapeño, was dense and very moist, among the best I’ve had.
The bottom line: This is real barbecue, Texas style, made by an owner who’s always there. There wasn’t any one standout item with the “wow factor” I always hope for, but on the night visit all four meats at Tejano Loco were good. If I lived in the area, I’d go fairly often. I know I’ll be back for the chili.