Leon's "Real Fine" BBQ is a 16 month old traditional pit restaurant in Waxahachie, TX. We are raising funds to expand our kitchen, build a second smoker, and purchase some new refrigeration equipment, in order to expand our selection of traditional legacy southern dishes.
At Leon's "Real Fine" BBQ, we are focused on preserving heritage BBQ styles and legacy recipes from the South. From out 1950's style of sauce and Pork, to our hundred year old brownie recipe, the folks at Leon's share a commitment to preserving our southern food heritage (we are originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama). Our passion for traditional smoking techniques has attracted a solid local following in our home for the past 30 years, Waxahachie, Texas. We offer a mix of beef and pork barbecue, as well as pork/venison sausage.
We serve exceptional food, and have a simple credo; "nobody goes away hungry". Part of that equation is serving large portions, at reasonable prices. The other is feeding people, wealthy or poor. Since all the food is cooked fresh daily, on the occasions that we have leftovers, those are donated to people in need.
When it comes to the food, we use traditional southern recipes dating back 100 years. Preserving these recipes, and traditional smoking techniques, is part of our "mission". We can't expand our mission without expanding our kitchen capabilities. We want to replace some of our commercially prepared desserts with those made on site (banana pudding, pecan pie, and peach cobbler). We Also want to expand our side items with Old Southern staples like Fried Okra, hand cut French Fries, grandma's cornbread dressing, Greens, etc. We don't have the room or equipment to prepare them now.
Leon's is dedicated to the preservation of wood fired smoking techniques. With the growth of regional and national chain BBQ restaurants, traditional wood fired smoking has given way to more efficient electric smokers that use only a handful of wood chips. Leon's uses real Red Oak and long smoking times to re-create the traditional BBQ flavors from the 1950's. Our signature sauce recipe dates from 1955 and was obtained from a legendary BBQ joint in Alabama.
The results have been amazing! Sales volume is three times what we predicted it would be. In our first year of operation we were voted "Best BBQ Restaurant in Ellis County" in the Waxahachie Daily Light Readers Poll. (Out of 14 BBQ establishments) Our ratings on Urban Spoon and Facebook are also outstanding.
Our Problem is a good one. The food is great, the portions and the prices are even better. The problem is we cannot smoke enough meat to supply the demand. We regularly sell out before our scheduled closing time which results in some very unhappy customers! We need more smoking capacity!
We started on a shoestring. Our current kitchen measures 10' x 15'. After placing the equipment, we have a 6' x 11' space in which to work. There isn't much we can do, currently, in terms of creativity. My goal is to bring more southern style food items to our brisket-centric customer base. We are already producing the best pulled pork I have tasted anywhere in the past 50 years (and I am an Alabama native). Memphis eat your heart out.
We are also attempting to streamline our operation, we have room to expand our kitchen, dividing it into separate prep and serving areas. Our current setup has everything being done in one spot. By dividing the two areas, this will allow us to be more efficient, reduce wait times and be more productive. But most important, it will allow us to bring our customers and expanded menu with more legacy recipes.
Conventional wisdom would be for us to simply raise our prices (after all, we have high food costs - approx. 36%, and more demand than we can accommodate) . We have only managed to stay open until closing 13 times in the 16 months that we have been open. The rest of the time we have sold out before closing time. However, times are still tough for a lot of people and BBQ should not just be a rich man's diet. Prices at Leon's are generally 20% lower than those of other local BBQ restaurants. Our $19.95 rack of ribs brings $39.00 to $45.00 at area BBQ joints that sell them by the pound. Although our food costs are high on ribs, we are determined to keep them affordable, and make them more widely available. The proposed second smoker funded through Kickstarter will double our rib capacity to at least 48 racks per day.
What will Kickstarter funding allow us to do?
We cannot expand our mission of preserving heritage BBQ styles and traditional legacy recipes from the South without expanding our kitchen capabilities. We want to replace some of our commercially prepared items and desserts with those made onsite with traditional recipes. The intended kitchen improvements from our Kickstarter funding will allow us to do a number of things that we currently cannot; frying (French fries and onion rings), tamale making, and baking (peach cobbler, pies, and cornbread dressing, among others). We now have a limited number of side items (one of which is bagged potato chips). We want to expand our side items with Fried Okra, French Fries, Cornbread Dressing and the like. We don't have the room or equipment to prepare them now.
Our existing smoker, "Big Red", is great, and efficient. However, it is too small to meet the demand for our smoked meat. On some days, we are out of meat by 3:30 in the afternoon. Our planned smoker addition will be less efficient, but will be an "old school" Texas design that will produce even better barbecue, and 400 pounds more of it.
Please note that our premiums include some of our favorite heirloom recipes for chili, pinto beans, potato salad, brownies, salsa, and other dishes. It is just another way to share our love of traditional southern food.
Is Leon's Worth Helping?
You be the judge. If you have eaten here, you understand our commitment to "Real Fine" food, "Real Fine" portions, and "Real Fine" pricing. Here is how Leon's stacks up in terms of customer satisfaction (taken from Urban Spoon) against some true legends in Texas BBQ:
Leon's "Real Fine" BBQ - Waxahachie 100%
Franklin's BBQ - Austin (Texas Monthly #1) 91%
Pecan Lodge - Dallas (Texas Monthly #2) 88%
Snow's BBQ - Lexington (Texas Monthly #3) 90%
We are not BBQ Pitmasters, gurus, or fanatics, we just want to give our customers a good meal, in a fun atmosphere, at a price that keeps us from going broke. For us, that is a noble calling and commitment. - John Bailey
Risks and challenges
There are always risks with any project, this one is no different. We feel that we are uniquely qualified to overcome any challenges this project could present. In developing our schedule, we have allowed sufficient times for construction and in delivering backer rewards so that we will not suffer if there is some slippage along the way. Our second kitchen area has already been demolished and we are getting ready for the build back. With 16 months in operation behind us, it has provided many challenges to overcome and our goals still remain the same; to serve "Real Fine" BBQ. Your support of us through Kickstarter will allow us to showcase our kind of BBQ to a larger audience. Thank you for your support.