HARLINGEN, TEXAS (NOV. 26, 2019) – Stepping into the Weslaco Bar-B-Cutie location feels like stepping into a friend’s place, it’s inviting.
Owner Zeke Reyna holds the door open for his customers with a warm smile and a friendly greeting. His connection to his customers and employees is infectious and customer service is not a chore, but a way of business.
And soon, Zeke will be welcoming guests to his second Bar-B-Cutie location in Harlingen coming in early Spring of 2020. The location is set to open along Expressway 77, in front of Sam’s Club.
“Harlingen has a great market and deserves a restaurant that will not only serve its community but its neighbors for a long time to come,” Zeke said.
TEXAS BARBECUE STYLE
The art of Texas-style barbecue is not lost on Zeke but in the process, he has learned a lot more about perfecting the familiar flavors.
Daily, the restaurant’s pit-masters, who have a combined 25 years’ experience, place Choice beef into massive Southern Pride pits to slow cook for 15 hours. The smoky flavor that hits the palate at first bite is from the green mesquite that burns long and slow, giving the brisket a tasty flavor from the sap that is cleaner and more palatable.
“It is our job to not just serve but educate our customers about what type of brisket we have and how we cook it,” Zeke said.
The large Southern Pride pits are exposed, smoking brisket daily from 8 p.m. through the night and into the morning. Zeke estimates that they smoke 25 to 30 briskets, sometimes more, and serve up to 700 tickets a day.
The chain is out of Nashville, and as all Texans know, Nashville barbecue is quite different, and really? Texas barbecue is THE ONLY barbecue. So, Zeke has incorporated the standard Bar-B-Cutie sauces: Sweet, Mild, House and Carolina sauces, all homemade, but has also made the barbecue his own.
Zeke and his staff have made the menu unique by adding “barbecue botanas” that are served with tostadas, cheese, baked potatoes, and other items. They have also added a Taco Tuesday special. Both items will also be served at the Harlingen location.
IN THE BUSINESS
Zeke, whose background in wealth management and professional golf, is a first-time restaurant owner but was inspired to bring a new twist on barbecue. Bar-B-Cutie was that opportunity for him.
He has found business guidance in friend Orly Ochoa, owner of McAllen-area Bar-B-Cutie franchises and his father, Ezequiel Reyna Jr. While there has been a learning curve, Zeke said that the experience he has gained has been humbling.
“We serve good food, but there’s more to it,” Zeke said.
He ensures his values and ideals are at the forefront because when people visit his establishment, they’re coming not just for what is served, but how it’s served.
Zeke has had to deal with criticism because they are a “chain restaurant” but he explained that there will always be people trying to “kick your butt.” He has learned to lead and learn in unison.
“It happens in tangent and it seems overwhelming, but I believe we are changing the narrative of what barbecue is – it’s not just a brisket sandwich.”
TRIALS AND GROWTH
Like any businessman, Zeke spends his day doing financials, marketing, and figuring out strategies to increase business. But he also nurtures his staff and spends time wearing many hats at the restaurant.
His advice to budding restaurant owners would be to not be afraid to “dance in front of the stage, behind, on the sides, before you get on the stage” before your grand performance – leading.
He has focused on communicating with his staff because he understands that his staff is a representation of what the restaurant is, and of how he leads.
“We are excited to open in Harlingen. We want people to come and crack open an ice-cold beer, enjoy good food, in Harlingen. The city deserves it.”
For more information about the restaurant and catering services, visit their Facebook page.