Grapefruit pie is a surprisingly juicy and delicious South Texas treat.
If you’re not from South Texas, you may not have heard of grapefruit pie. We certainly hadn’t. South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley is well known for growing some of the sweetest and juiciest grapefruit in the world, especially Texas Red grapefruit. So when we heard that they actually make pie out of these ruby beauties, we just had to try it.
It wasn’t as easy as we thought. We searched the internet and found a number of recipes for the traditional Texas treat, but few places that sold it. Finally, RFT Editor Anne Weaver found a review for what was reputed to be “the best” Texas grapefruit pie at Ferrell’s BBQ. However, further research showed us that Ferrell’s had been replaced by a place called Lone Star BBQ. A phone call confirmed that, yes, they still make Ferrell’s famous citrus pie.
We headed out 83, the main highway through the Rio Grande Valley, and found Lone Star BBQ in a modest red building. To say Lone Star is nothing fancy is an understatement. It’s a typical low-slung, hole-in-the-wall with scattering of Formica tables. But, even late in the afternoon, the tables were filled with Winter Texans, middle-aged and older folks who escape the wintery climates in places like Minnesota and Maine here in South Texas, often with their motorhomes or trailers.
Grapefruit Pie at Last
Lone Star BBQ not only makes grapefruit pie, they bake up fresh peach cobbler, and banana, coconut, and strawberry pie. But you can get those pies in other places. It was the elusive grapefruit pie, served only October through May when the Texas Reds are in season, that we were after. We weren’t disappointed.
“It’s our biggest seller,” said the woman, as she sat a fat wedge of pie topped with a pile of real whipped cream in front of us.
Grapefruit pie is unlike any pie we’ve ever tasted. Big, juicy sections of fresh Texas Red grapefruit are gently held together by a loose, jelly-like substance. I say “substance” because we couldn’t get Lone Star to give us even a hint about how make their famous grapefruit pie. It’s a closely guarded recipe that was part of the deal, along with the BBQ sauce recipe, when Ferrell’s was purchased. Even most of the staff have no idea how the pie is made, except that everyday a young man peels and sections a mountain of fresh Texas Red grapefruit in preparation for making the day’s pies. In fact, the recipe is so most closely guarded that Lone Star BBQ’s owner Darrell Myska’s parents come in early before anyone two or three times a week, to make the mysterious gel that holds this pie together. All Darrell will say is, “It’s a homemade glaze. We don’t use any pre-packaged products like Jello. We make a yellow one for our banana pie; red for our grapefruit and strawberry pies.”
Lone Star’s grapefruit pie is literally stuffed with grapefruit sections. The pie crust lends crunch to this super juicy, not overly sweet confection and the pile of freshly whipped cream adds a sweet contrast to the citrusy grapefruit. It was light and one of the most refreshing pies we’ve ever eaten.
Of course, customers flock to Lone Star BBQ not just for pie. They specialize in all manner of BBQed beef and pork, especially brisket and ribs, all slow cooked over mesquite wood in their big rotating smoker in a back room behind the kitchen. (They smoke both pork and baby back ribs, but baby bakes are only available on Saturdays.) Their fried catfish, whole fish coated with cornmeal and flour, is also wildly popular.
We sampled the beef brisket, thin-sliced, super-lean and tender slices. It was topped with the perfectly tangy, not-overly-sweet, and super-secret BBQ sauce. Lone Star also makes all their own sides like coleslaw and potato salad.
Lone Star BBQ doesn’t have a big web presence, but you can find them in McAllen and Mission in the Rio Grande Valley. Strangely, enough, even though Lone Star has locations in both McAllen and Mission, Darrell only sells the grapefruit pies at the mission location. We discovered this when RFT Editor Anne Weaver had a “pie craving attack” as we were heading to the airport for home. We pulled into the McAllen location at 10 a.m., an hour earlier than they open. Anne gamely went to the back of the restaurant and went in. There she met Darrell, the owner, who told her about the Mission only pie policy. And yes, he said, they’d let us in early to buy some.
So off we went 15 minutes down the road to the Mission Lone Star BBQ where we’d eaten our first pie. The staff recognized us and laughed good-naturedly when we told them we just had to have a piece, no make that two pieces, of their fabulous grapefruit pie to go. They tucked the pieces into individual pie-shaped pie containers and piled on the real whipped cream.
The first piece never made it out of the parking lot. The baker, seeing us gobbling the pie in our car, stuck her head out of the kitchen door laughing and said, “It’s so delicious, isn’t it?”
It is delicious. The fact that this grapefruit pie had been freshly made this morning made it uber-fresh, with a flaky crust, citrusy/sweet filling, and a mountain of freshly whipped cream.
As I write this in the McAllen Airport, our lone piece of Rio Grande Valley grapefruit pie has made it through security (although the TSA officers kidded us about “confiscating” it for their lunch). I suspect won’t make it many miles farther.
Lone Star BBQ doesn’t ship this pie. You’ll just have to go to Rio Grande Valley and find Lone Star Bakery; just remember to go to the Mission store. It’ll be worth it.
And next time we’re in the Rio Grande Valley, we’ll be sure to take some time to enjoy a full BBQ meal here. And, of course, top it off with a slice of their terrific grapefruit pie. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor, Photos Anne Weaver, RFT Editor
2224 U.S. 83 Business (Pie and BBQ)
Mission, TX 78572
3619 N. 10th St. (BBQ only)