Photo by Joe Lanane
Owner proud to keep Georgetown operation local
Patrons at Duke’s BBQ Smokehouse may notice the signs that read “Keep Georgetown Normal” as they enter the restaurant.
For owner Darren Hendricks, the signs are not meant as a jab to the popular “Keep Austin Weird” slogan, but are instead intended to stress his passion for promoting local business.
“It’s more of a bash against the chains and a bash against that mentality,” Hendricks said. “We want to do one thing, and we want to do it very well.”
Hendricks said he worries about future generations who consider chain restaurants the new “normal” and locally owned operations more the exception. Duke’s seeks to slow that generational movement toward national dining chains.
“We have the same thought process [as Austin]—even though they’re ‘weird,’’’ he said. “Let’s get this back to being the ‘normal’ so there are no chains in 200 to 300 years.”
Hendricks first started working alongside his brother-in-law at PoK-e-Jo’s Smokehouse. As the restaurant’s popularity grew, so too did Hendricks’ role until he was mostly out of the kitchen coordinating marketing efforts.
That’s when Hendricks realized he wanted to start his own business that maintained only one location. He found a spot immediately off I-35 in Georgetown where Duke’s has been from the start.
Since 2003 Hendricks has excelled in creating a menu at Duke’s that caters toward his most frequent visitors. He arrives at work every day at 4:30 a.m. to begin food preparation. It is often during that time he will test new recipes and marinades, Hendricks said.
“Everything we make is going to be great because, if not, I’m going to hear about it [from customers],” he said. “Sometimes even when I change something for the better, I’ll still hear about it, and change things back to the way they were.”
The trick to knowing whether a barbecue sauce is homemade or not, Hendricks said, is to check for chunks. If the sauce has chunks of leftover ingredients, it was likely created in-house, he said.
Hendricks also relies on a few original marinade recipes to create flavorful beef brisket, smoked sausage, pork loin, turkey breast, chicken and pork ribs. He also constantly puts his own touches on the side dishes, including the baked beans, which feature beef brisket pieces cooked into each serving.
Cooking is a passion for Hendricks, who has no intention of letting Duke’s succumb to the pressures of corporate chain restaurants.
“I have no desire to retire,” he said. “From my cut station, I can see the whole restaurant, and that’s all I need.”
Meat with a side of meat
Several platters are available for customers to choose how much meat they want to eat. The selection includes beef brisket served lean, moist or chopped; Slovachek sausage; center cut pork loin; whole turkey breast; chicken; and St. Louis–cut pork ribs. Sides are included.
- Cowboy Feast Plate—One pound of meat
- Bubba Bell Plate—Up to three meats
- Hungry Man Plate—Up to two meats
- Big John Plate—One meat
- Pony Plate—One meat, smaller portions
- Non-Hunter Plate—Three sides of veggies
Customers can add 1/8 pound of meat to any plate for an extra $1.89.
Leave room for dessert
There are multiple homestyle desserts to choose from at Duke’s BBQ Smokehouse.
- Peach cobbler
- Banana pudding
- Buttermilk pie
- Pecan pie
- Other desserts also available
Duke’s also serves breakfast from 7–11 a.m. daily. The restaurant offers breakfast plates, breakfast tacos, pancakes and three-egg omelettes.
Duke’s BBQ Smokehouse, 408 W. Morrow St., Georgetown, Mon.–Sun. 7 a.m.–9 p.m., 930-2877, www.dukesbbq.com