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Rang Tang Craft Barbecue is defining Southwest Colorado flavor

Local beef smoked with scrub oak offers a distinct regional taste
Rang Tang Craft Barbecue owner L.R. Laggy cuts strips of brisket while his employee Joseph Blanco assists a customer. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Special to the Herald)

Rang Tang Craft Barbecue, made with local regenerative beef and smoked with locally sourced oak, may be making brisket more indicative of Southwest Colorado than any other barbecue joint in Durango.

“We’re trying to do everything as hyper-local and as ethically as possible,” said Rang Tang owner L.R. Laggy. “I want to serve food that I wouldn’t feel guilty about in any way.”

Located at 11th Street Station, Rang Tang boasts no GMOs or seed oil used in preparing its barbecue. Laggy calls Rang Tang’s practices ethical barbecue.

“Serving the food that we serve, that’s regeneratively farmed, means that the earth is actually becoming a better place,” he said.

L.R. Laggy shaves off thick slices of brisket made from James Ranch beef and smoked with local scrub oak. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Special to the Herald)

Many regenerative farmers regard themselves as grass and soil farmers and not ranchers, Laggy said.

“Regenerative farms are really stewards of the land even though some of them are raising cows,” he said. “The healthier the grass and soil is, the more water it can retain. The more water it retains, the less external water it needs and more carbon is sequestered.”

Laggy and his one employee, Joseph Blanco, call the area their food trailer is located Rang Tang alley, because it’s located off to the side of 11th Street Station. Rang Tang is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

Rang Tang gets all beef locally at James Ranch, its pinto beans come from a place in Hesperus called Dry Side beans, and most of its vegetables come from Field to Plate Produce in Durango.

Even the wood used to fire up Laggy’s smoker comes from locally sourced scrub oak.

“I don’t think many people use scrub oak,” Laggy said. In Texas it’s post oak, or hickory, or mesquite.”

Aside from locally sourcing almost all of its ingredients, Rang Tang uses a traditional way of smoking meat. Laggy said that while most places use electric smokers, he uses an authentic Texas-style offset smoker.

Laggy traces his barbecue journey back to one perfect bite of brisket in Austin, Texas, in 2014.

“We had ordered some brisket and after they had plated our food, he cut me a little piece, and I was unprepared for how good it was,” he said. “It was transcendent. At the time I knew what good brisket tasted like, and this was orders of magnitude better.”

However, Laggy didn’t act on his perfect bite until 2020. While listening to a podcast, he was prompted with the question: “What do you want to be known for?”

“Right away when I heard that it was like I got this message, and I knew I wanted to have the best brisket,” he said.

Laggy now aims to give everyone their own perfect bite of brisket.

Rang Tang’s Joseph Blanco delivers food to customers at 11th Street Station. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Special to the Herald)

Cost to produce such an intensely local barbecue experience isn’t cheap, and that is somewhat reflected in Rang Tang’s prices. Laggy said his meat prices are probably double that of restaurants that buy commodity meat, but the quality of the brisket he smokes is worth it.

Rang Tang boasts a simple but flavorful menu. Laggy said his favorite items on the menu are the brisket, the beef cheeks and the burnt ends. All meat on the menu are priced at $8 a quarter pound.

Laggy said that in the near future he hopes to focus on making Rang Tang better at production, so that the menu can be expanded.

“We want to add more accessible items; Joe is working on a mac and cheese right now for kids and adults,” he said.

Before working for Rang Tang, Blanco said he worked at J. Bo Pizza and Rib Co. in Durango for eight years. Working with Laggy allows him to focus on community, he said.

“Barbecue is a draw for me because it’s all about community, and Durango is a community that always draws me back,” Blanco said. “This is the best barbecue in Durango. It’s very clean.”

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