Prepare yourself, barbecue fans. Central Texas style barbecue is headed to Gig Harbor.
It comes from Gary Parker, an Austin transplant who moved here 20 years ago with his wife Cindi Parker.
Gary Parker is about to retire from Intel, the company that moved him here. Conveniently, he’s turning his longtime hobby as a tailgate barbecuer into a business.
Expect an opening later this year for his restaurant. It’s called BBQ2U and will be at 4814 Point Fosdick Drive NW, which is the Gig Harbor location that formerly held a liquor store in the same shopping center as Ace Hardware.
Moving here from Austin was a bit of a culture shock. That’s the short way of explaining how he became so involved in making his own barbecue.
“We were young and couldn’t find certain Southern foods here,” he said. “My wife likes to tell a story about going to KFC and asking for fried okra as a side.”
The response, “What’s okra?”
Thus began the quest to make their favorites at home.
His neighbor, an attorney, watched with curiosity as Parker set up an offset smoker on his deck. His neighbor was enthralled and asked him to make the food for a family party. Parker did so and his habit began of cooking his hometown specialty for family and friends.
“I had so much fun, I bought a Lang smoker out of Georgia and started doing more stuff in the driveway,” Parker said.
Soon, he was tagging along with his son John to his car races. (John now owns Gig Harbor’s Accuracy Automotive). Gary Parker started making barbecue for the hungry members of his son’s pit crew.
He had a deal he offered spectators.
“I always fed the crew and then told the (spectators) whatever’s left over is theirs,” Parker said. “They’d line up.”
He’s working through permits and the details of his barbecue restaurant now. He plans for between 30 and 40 seats in the 2,800-square-foot space.
He has a self-contained smoker that will be custom-built to be accessible from inside the restaurant.
He’ll fuel the wood smoker with post oak or mesquite. He intends to get the wood from Texas. He’ll use local alder or fruitwood if he can’t get wood from Texas.
He described the casual, order-at-the-counter style of dining he enjoyed at barbecue restaurants in and around Austin. He’ll replicate that experience as much as he can.
“The first thing you see is the pit behind the counter,” he said.
Next, diners get in line where they peruse the side dishes.
“You get your tray, get your drink, your slaw, pudding cup, whatever you want,” he said. “You get to the counter and tell them what meat you want (and how much). They start slicing. They put that up on the scale … on butcher paper. And then it goes on the tray.”
That sliced meat also can be turned into a sandwich, Parker said.
He has plans for pork ribs, brisket, turkey and chicken. Side dishes will include creamed corn, macaroni and cheese and baked beans.
I asked about pulled pork and quickly got schooled.
“I’ll bring that from the East Coast,” he said. “That’s not Texas.”
He said it kindly. He’ll be a gentle barbecue educator about the traditions of Central Texas barbecue.
Where: 4814 Point Fosdick Dr NW, Gig Harbor; facebook.com/BBQ2U.