Waco Trib banner
Waco Trib banner
1934 About us

Members of the Syrian Club of Waco slice up barbecue at one of their annual barbecue fundraisers in the 1950s. They include (starting at second from left) George “Baby” Fadal, George Fadal, George M. Fadal and Edward Angelo. The man at far left and two on the far right are unknown to Fredrick Khoury, who has a collection of these photographs. Photo by Roswell M. Payne.

By Janet Jones

Texans love their barbecue. That mouthwatering taste of juicy, slow-smoked meat leaves even the most discriminating eaters weak at the knees.

And despite the ongoing debate “to sauce or not to sauce,” many pit masters consider a flavorful barbecue sauce just as essential to the meal as the potato salad, corn on the cob and baked beans. In fact, one might argue that what you put ON the meat is more important than what you serve WITH the meat.

For those meat lovers who want to push their barbecue experience to the next level, Waco native Fredrick Khoury has a suggestion: try Central Texas’ own 1934 BBQ Sauce. If the name of that sauce is unfamiliar, Fredrick understands, even though the sauce has been popular with barbecue lovers since its creation in Waco almost 90 years ago.

As founder and president of the company, Fredrick’s mission is to bring 1934 BBQ Sauce to the forefront of the barbecue world by sharing its iconic past and by allowing barbecue aficionados to taste for themselves the difference a premium sauce can make at their next backyard cookout.

In the Beginning

The history of 1934 BBQ Sauce is as rich and tantalizing as the sauce itself.

The story began more than 100 years ago and 7,000 miles away. In the 1900s, many Syrian and Lebanese immigrants sailed to America in search of a better life. Alex Khoury, Fredrick’s grandfather, traveled from the mountain village of Safita in Syria and settled in Waco to be closer to family and friends.

His grandmother Theodora sailed from her native home in Lebanon to Ellis Island in New York before arriving in Texas. Alex and Theodora met through mutual friends, married soon after and started a family with sons Ernest, Fred (Fredrick’s father), Rollin, Theodore and daughter Lillian.

As the Khoury family and other immigrants settled in Central Texas, the close-knit community formed a benevolent society named The Syrian Club of Waco (now the Syrian Lebanese Association). Alex was a founding member.

The group built a clubhouse on 10 acres near Highway 84 and Hewitt Drive, where members gathered for fellowship and to plan ways to serve the community with contributions to charities and scholarships for local students.

In 1934, club members hosted their first fundraising event to raise money for charitable projects — a barbecue meal with all the fixings.

That inaugural barbecue was so successful, it became the association’s much-anticipated annual fundraising event, feeding thousands of Central Texans for the next six decades

Annual Barbecue

Fredrick Khoury grew up working beside his family at the fundraisers. In the early years of the event, Fredrick said club members were not sure how to prepare meals for the crowd of more than a thousand people who attended.

“But they figured it out and got good at it!” he said.

Alex and other club members experimented by barbecuing meat “low and slow,” long before the method became mainstream.

“Little did they know they would be pioneers of one of the most widely used methods of cooking barbecue today,” Fredrick said.

Using this process, meat cooks at low temperatures for several hours. The members built three brick barbecue pits to smoke the meat and bake the potatoes. It was a two-day process. The meat smoked all night, then was served at 6 p.m. the following day.

1934 Texas BBQ

Adding wood to the barbecue smoker sometime in the 1950s are (from left) Ken Fadal, (unknown), George Fadal, (unknown), Fred Khoury, Edmond Fadal.

Event organizers wanted to offer barbecue sauce to complement the meal and enhance the flavor of the meat, but bottled sauce was not readily available at the neighborhood grocery stores in 1934.

“If members wanted to offer barbecue sauce, they had to create it themselves,” Fredrick said.

Once again, they “figured it out,” he said.

Alex and other members experimented with a barbecue recipe by adding different ingredients until they found a flavor they liked. They offered the barbecue sauce to patrons and, to the members’ pleasure, they loved it.

The sauce became a mainstay of the meal from the first barbecue in 1934 until the last barbecue the association hosted in 1991.

“It’s the only sauce they ever had,” Fredrick said.

1934 Sauce

By 1991, Texas charitable gaming laws were changing for nonprofit activities like bingo (another one of the Syrian Club’s popular fundraisers). Club members discontinued the beloved annual barbecue and sold the clubhouse and accompanying land.

The barbecue sauce was seemingly gone forever … except Fredrick had the recipe.

“I made barbecue sauce as gifts for my friends and family and considered selling it for more than 20 years,” Fredrick said.

In 2017, he decided to do it.

Fredrick used the “original” barbecue sauce as a base for creating three other sauces. He discovered that changing or adding only one or two ingredients created a completely different flavor.

For example, the “smoke” sauce contains additional spices and Ancho chilies. “Heat” sauce contains smoke sauce with cayenne pepper and the “sweet onion” sauce contains fresh pureed onions.

He branded all four sauces “1934,” to pay homage to the year the sauce debuted at the first Syrian Club’s barbecue.

1934 BBQ archive about us

Barbecue cooked by the Syrian Club of Waco was consumed along with sodas at an annual fundraising meal in the 1950s. Photo by Roswell M. Payne from Fredrick Khoury’s collection.

Fredrick emphasizes the quality of the ingredients as a key differentiator between a premium sauce like his and many of the cheaper versions sold in grocery stores. The sauces are made with all natural ingredients, free from preservatives or additives like sorghum and xanthan gum (thickening agents to prevent ingredients from separating.)

“Our sauces contain smoked Ancho chili’s not liquid smoke,” Fredrick said, “and we use fresh produce and name-brand spices, instead of generic spices found on the dollar aisle.”

Fredrick launched the barbecue sauce by visiting businesses door to door, hoping they might stock their shelves with his product. He attended food shows in Texas, Las Vegas, New York and Florida to encourage potential clients to try 1934 Barbecue Sauce.

He was convinced that if people sampled his sauce, they would be able to tell the difference between premium barbecue sauce and the mass-produced brands. His perseverance paid off. Today, 1934 Barbecue Sauce is sold in 47 U.S. states and five countries: Canada, Germany, Poland, France and the overseas British territory of Bermuda.

A 14-ounce bottle of 1934 BBQ Sauce costs $7.50 and a BBQ 4-Pack costs $28 on the 1934 BBQ website. The products also may be purchased at Waco Custom Marketplace and Vibrante Oils & Vinegars in Spice Village.

Other Products

1934 Bloody Mary Mix is a hand-crafted small batch mix made with natural ingredients like the barbecue sauce … just add alcohol.

To test the market’s reaction to the cocktail, Fredrick entered the mix into some of the world’s most prestigious spirits contests, including Bartender Spirits Awards; London Spirits Competition; Las Vegas Global Spirits Awards and Cigar and Spirits Magazine Awards.

1934 Bloody Mary Mix not only won many of the competitions but won some of them several years in a row.

The SIP Awards is the only internationally recognized consumer judging spirits competition, appealing to opinions and palates of the public, instead of the industry. 1934 Bloody Mary Mix won Best of Class “hands down,” according to comments one event organizer shared with Fredrick.

like

1934 Family of products

The 1934 family of products includes four varieties of barbecue sauce, a Bloody Mary mix and a meat seasoning mix.

The Bloody Mary Festival of DFW brings together the best Bloody Marys created by local bars, restaurants and craft mixes from the region. When 1934 Bloody Mary mix received the coveted “best drink” award in 2018, judges told Fredrick it was the first time a bottled mix had ever won over hand-mixed bartender drinks. The mix won the same award again in 2019.

In addition to Bloody Marys, the mix makes a variety of other cocktails by changing the alcohol. For example, a 1-ounce serving of 1934 mix with a 12-ounce beer is a Michelada. Recipes for other recipes are listed on the 1934 Bloody Mary Mix bottle.

The robust cocktail mix without alcohol also has many other uses such as a base for soup, spaghetti sauce, queso and chili; or a cocktail sauce for oyster shooters and shrimp.

1934 Season Mix is a blend of the premium spices that can enhance the flavor of chicken, pork, ribs, fish, fries, potatoes, eggs, potatoes, rice, beans and more. The all-natural ingredients contain no preservatives so the mix will not clump.

“People are led to believe they need one season mix for beef, another for chicken, and a third for seafood,” Fredrick said. “This season mix can be used on almost any food but dessert!”

Maintaining the Legacy

The story of Central Texas’ oldest bottled barbecue sauce began a century ago when Alex Khoury and other Syrian and Lebanese immigrants in Waco created the sauce enjoyed at an annual fundraising barbecue for 60 years, and is still being sold today.

Local attorney and former state representative Rollin Khoury remembers the Syrian Club of Waco’s barbecue as a delicious meal for a worthy cause.

“The proceeds we earned from the barbecue allowed us to donate money to several worthy charities,” he said. “A plate of all-you-can-eat barbecue with all the fixings was only $5. Eventually, we had to punch their meal tickets to limit the number of times they could refill their plates.”

Rollin is Fredrick’s uncle, and Alex’s last surviving child.

“I’m glad Fredrick is selling our barbecue sauce. I know my father would be proud of his grandson,” Rollin said. “But he wouldn’t be happy to know the annual fundraising barbecue is gone.”

Fredrick hopes that by sharing the rich history of 1934 BBQ Sauce it will elevate it to the company of other beloved Waco icons.

“Before I die, I would like Waco to be known for three things,” Fredrick said. “Dr Pepper, Big Red and 1934 BBQ Sauce!”

Syrian club drinks

During one of the Shriners Club fundraisers in Waco in the 1950s, participants get ice-cold drinks out of the Coca-Cola cooler. Empty bottles in the case next to it are a mix of Coke and Dr Pepper. Photo by Roswell M. Payne from Fredrick Khoury’s collection.