The rich aromas of ribs and brisket cooking in a smoker in a convenience store parking lot draw people inside for home-cooked barbecue, sides and a friendly greeting.
A few months ago, Buddy Haga and his wife Robin opened Buddy’s Barbecue, a tiny barbecue joint and are building a loyal following who flock to the Big Easy Discount Mart where they find Texas barbecue inside.
For now, the Hagas have seating for five at a bar near the tiny kitchen which is crammed with supplies where they turn out plates of ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage and chicken with generous helpings of coleslaw, potato salad and mac and cheese, all homemade.
“I try to put a lot of love into it. It’s my passion. It’s not throwing together some barbecue and slappin’ it on to a plate. To me, it’s more about making people happy,” Haga said.
Joe Gavlak came in to the Big Easy convenience store with a raw chicken in a plastic bag. He handed it to Haga and said he didn’t care how long it took for Haga to smoke the meat.
He described meeting Haga outside of a grocery store as a “serendipitous” moment.
“We started talking about smoking meat and barbecue. He told me about his place, and I wanted to have some,” Gavlak said. “That did it.”
Gavlak said his wife likes Haga’s barbecue sauce, saying it’s good enough to drink, but Gavlak said he never uses sauce because he wants to “taste the smoke.”
Tania Mercier, who frequents the Big Easy Discount Mart, said when she tried Haga’s barbecue and potato salad, she was hooked.
“The ribs are especially good. I take the barbecue to go. I especially like the potato salad. Even if I get food somewhere else, I come in for the potato salad,” she said.
Mercier said she recently had a hip replacement, and the Hagas always help her bring the food to her car.
Haga, who grew up in Hurst, said his passion for cooking great barbecue began when his father took him out for barbecue. He bought a grill and started experimenting at home. Then came the smoker.
Haga described seeing a pit on a trailer and knew that he would have to build one for himself.
In 2003, Haga began entering competitions, such as the Lone Star Barbecue Association competition where he won for his slow-cooked, hickory-smoked meats.
He pursued the art of cooking ribs that fall off of the bone and tender brisket that one can cut with a fork.
When the Hagas found out that the kitchen at the convenience store wasn’t being used, they quickly moved in. Before barbecue was the mainstay, the kitchen offered a combination of Chinese and Cajun food.
Haga’s wife Robin also works along side her husband, saying that he is teaching her all he knows about the art of barbecue.
“It’s awesome, I was in between jobs,” she said.
“When we started here, it was growing so fast that he couldn’t do it alone,” she said.
The Hagas grew up in Hurst, attending Hurst Junior High and L.D. Bell High School.
The Hagas said that they run a 24-hour operation, nursing the smoker after the restaurant closes and making the sides including hand-cut fries, mac and cheese and crazy corn, a mix of corn, sugar and jalapenos.
Buddy’s mother, Carolyn Haga makes the potato salad, and coleslaw and sells her homemade jams, jellies and relishes.
Buddy Haga said that along with turning out great food, he is working on a line of rubs for people to use at home.
“No matter how big we get, Buddy is still going to do things in the same way,” Robin Haga said.
“He has his heart and soul in this, and you can taste it in the food.”
If you go
Buddy’s Barbecue, at 800 Brown Trail, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays. For more information, visit www.buddystexasbbq.com.