Local BBQ makes top 25 list
July 11, 2018
The savory, down home barbecue savvy of Jimmy and Stella Watson has landed their local eatery a spot on the Travel + Leisure's top places for barbecue in the United States.
"Watson's Bar-B-Que" in Tucumcari, was ranked 13th in 'The 25 Best Places For Barbecue in the U.S.' published in the June 19 edition of the national publication.
"It is exciting to be counted among one of the best," said Stella. "We are a bit off the beaten path; to get such recognition is flattering."
Jimmy said when it comes to the barbecue it's all about the quality; 'Our name is on the plate, it has to be good.' He said for 10 years he has asked the customers for their honest opinion.
"There is some added pressure now that we've been listed as one of the top 25," said Jimmy. "People are coming for great barbecue, that's what we aim to give them."
The list includes barbecue business from as far away as Prunedale Market in Salinas, California (first place ranking), Hate Mondays Tavern in Miami, Florida (19th) and as close as Spicy Mike's Bar-B-Q Haven in Amarillo (15th).
Travel + Leisure's list was compiled by Yelp using an algorithm that looked at both the number of reviews and the star ratings. Large chains were excluded, and there were no more than two establishments from each state to ensure geographic diversity.
Stella said one of the business' biggest selling points is having the restaurant inside the Tucumcari Ranch Supply store. She said over the past 10 years the focus has shifted from livestock feed and nails to brisket and ribs.
"The barbecue was a way to (keep) afloat during the extreme drought conditions impacting the region," Jimmy said. "It went from a small barbecue trailer, to a shack next to the store and finally moving inside the store itself."
Jimmy said his biggest sellers are the brisket, pork ribs and smoked sausage, but he also offers pulled pork and smoked turkeys as well as burgers, burritos and Frito pie. He said it would not be a complete barbecue meal with out sides, such as potato salad, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, pinto beans, homemade bread and cobblers.
"One of our unique menu items is the green chile apple cobbler, to which I say don't knock it until you try it," Jimmy said. "Many of the recipes come from my dad, who ran Watson's Bar-B-Cue in the 80s and 90s. I've made a few changes but we stick to what works."
Stella said there are no regrets, shifting from ranch supply to barbecue, especially when people are coming from as far away as Germany to eat your barbecue. She said they ask customers to sign the walls, which are now full and people have begun signing the canopy of the animal friendly patio.
"So many of our customers are tourists passing through town and have their pets with them," said Stella. "We want to make their pet feel welcome too."
The five-star rating on Yelp and mention in a Route 66 travel guide is what brought Kim and Sara Sherman to Watson's on Monday on their way to California.
Kim said she and her daughter are traveling from Chicago to California on Route 66.
"I've been wanting barbecue since we left Chicago and have been looking forward to eating here," Kim said.
Jimmy said he believes the success of the restaurant is largely due to making people feel welcome when they walk through the door.
"Having good barbecue helps, but you make people feel like they are home when they are here and they will want to keep coming back," Jimmy said.