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Psst! What’s the secret to smoking what some consider the best barbecue in Texas? “I don’t know,” shrugs Miss Tootsie, the veteran pit boss at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, east of Austin. Since 2008, when Texas Monthly crowned Snow’s the state’s top barbecue joint, thousands have driven from near and far to sample Miss Tootsie’s culinary skills.
Starting at 2 a.m. every Saturday, Norma Tomanetz—nicknamed “Miss Tootsie” at birth—babies briskets, chicken, sausage and other meats in Snow’s five outdoor pits (one of her sons gets some of the meat going around 11 p.m. the night before). Now 76, she’s been dishing out finger-lickin’ good barbecue since 1966, when she and her husband, White Tomanetz, worked at a meat market in nearby Giddings. Later, the couple ran their own meat market and Saturday-only barbecue restaurant in Lexington for 20 years.
Folks there still call Saturday their “barbecue day,” a tradition that started decades ago when farmers traveled into town. Nowadays, regular customers know to line up at Snow’s (named after owner Kerry Bexley’s childhood nickname of “Snowman”) as soon as the restaurant opens at 8 a.m. Typically by noon, Snow’s is sold out, with customers having gone through more than 1,000 pounds of smoke-kissed bliss.
Hundreds of kids in the Giddings public schools system, where Miss Tootsie is in her 13th year as a custodian, also adore her. “The schools are my home, and I take pride in what the buildings look like,” she says simply. Miss Tootsie ranches, too. After breakfast every morning, she and White—they live in Giddings—tend cattle at their Lexington ranch where they’re served by Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.
All these years later, might this hard-working lady be ready to hang up her trademark blue apron and mops? “Nope, I’m not planning to retire,” Miss Tootsie replies firmly. “I’m just hoping our maker gives me a few more years!”
Sheryl Smith-Rodgers is a frequent contributor to Texas Co-op Power.