Real, down-home barbecue is a family affair, and that’s just
what the owners of Maverick barbecue in Hollister and Trail Dust in
Morgan Hill are all about. Both restaurants, run by prot
égés of Trail Dust’s original owners, serve up some of the best
barbecue the South Valley has ever seen, with stacks of ribs smoked
for hours and chicken so moist it melts in your mouth.
Real, down-home barbecue is a family affair, and that’s just what the owners of Maverick barbecue in Hollister and Trail Dust in Morgan Hill are all about. Both restaurants, run by protégés of Trail Dust’s original owners, serve up some of the best barbecue the South Valley has ever seen, with stacks of ribs smoked for hours and chicken so moist it melts in your mouth.
The two families, both of whom share the vision of a menu chock full of delicious and high-quality entrees, are reaping their rewards for three years of hard work. Both are expanding their hours and hoping to expand their restaurants in the next few years, but neither owner actually started out to be a restaurateur.
Franz Ingram, owner of Trail Dust on Monterey Road, worked as a barbecue cook at the restaurant when he was fresh out of high school, but went on to work in home automation, setting up home theater systems.
“I got a new job, but we always stopped by and said hi,” said Ingram. “They wanted to sell the business, and I knew the barbecue aspect of it from working with them, so I talked to my dad about making a deal.”
Ingram was 22 when he took over as manager of the restaurant in Nov. 2002, but wise enough not to advertise new ownership too heavily.
He didn’t even change an item on the menu for the next year, instead letting regular customers get used to his presence while he continued to cook up delicious ribs.
In Hollister, Joel and Tricia Anderson had been living the average American life.
In 2002, Joel was working construction with his father, and Tricia had quit her teaching job to stay home with their son Canyon, with a second child, Colby, on the way.
They had been interested in barbecue for a while, and Trail Dust’s departing owners, who retired in their home state of Oklahoma, decided to impart some of the secrets of barbecue to the young couple they had befriended prior to the move.
Soon enough, they too had set up Maverick’s in the town’s old train depot at the end of Fifth Street.
“It’s hard sometimes, but I discovered my best quality is determination,” said Tricia. “You get fatigued from the physicalness of it, and then you have to deal with vendors and employees. In the morning you get up and do it all again.”
The couple recently expanded their operation to a six days a week, where the barbecue is freshly prepared with anywhere from five to eight hours of smoking, depending on the cut.
“There’s a huge difference between grilling and barbecuing,” said Joel. “The true difference is that in barbecuing you cook the meat with an indirect heat source: the smoke. In grilling, the meat is directly over the flame, but smoking locks in more flavor.”
Both Ingram and the Andersons have no plans to change their menus significantly any time soon.
The simple, high-quality fare of ribs, chicken, tri-tip and salmon combined with sides like coleslaw, beans, Texas toast and garden salads keeps customers coming back for more.
“It was successful before,” said Ingram. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Andersons hope to add regular specials to their menu and plan an outdoor seating area for the summer.
At Trail Dust, Ingram has adjusted the beer and wine lists, added regular specials and begun serving up his mother’s signature desserts for customers, her apple berry cobbler being quite popular.
“It’s become a family business over time, and that’s good,” said Ingram. “You can trust them, and they care about the business just as much as you do. The whole staff is kind of like family. And the business is a family philosophy. You don’t see people as a real source of money; you try to make them feel welcome. I enjoy the customers who are happy, even if they don’t buy much.”
And smiles aren’t just for family. Friendly help is one thing a barbecue shop won’t mind dispensing.
Ingram frequently gets customers who come in with questions about their own home barbecue, and he’s more than happy to answer them.
“That’s one thing we can’t compete with,” said Ingram. “People take pride in their home barbecue, so we might as well let them know how to make it better.”
For her part, Tricia has even been known to invite regular customers over for dinner, but she knows that their ultimate success or failure comes down to quality.
“As long as we’ve got good quality, people will keep coming, even if there’s a disruption in their service or someone doesn’t fill their cup again fast enough that day,” she said. “Without that, it wouldn’t matter.”