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Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que

Our future holds even more of this deliciousness

It was a simple plan. Two people were smitten with each other and wanted to work together to see more of each other. So Ron and Debra Wise started a small barbecue shop on 1st Avenue in Seattle's SoDo area, opening on April 1, 1980. He was the cook; she was the cashier. They sold sandwiches and sodas. It became a lunch-only sensation with lines every day.

1st Ave original Pecos

One repeat customer was Gerry Kingen, known for his Climax Tavern, Red Robin's, the Warehouse, Boondock's, Lion O'Reilly's, Great American Food & Beverage Co., Lake Union Café, Salty's Seafood Grills. One day Ron told Gerry he was getting too old to continue; Gerry said, "let's talk." The agreement they came to in 2010 was that Debra and Ron would continue to operate the 1st Avenue location while Gerry and team would grow the business. They would be the owning entity and offer franchises all over the country. Meanwhile, Ron is now retired and Debra is still running the original.

The concept is to have a commissary kitchen where goods come in, meat is smoked, sides are partially prepared, then out to the stores they go. "The smoking experts are all in one place, the food is fresh daily (coming in raw one day, going to stores the next), and consistency and total quality are maintained," says Jeremy McLachlan, Director of Operations and Food & Beverage guy. "We vetted the smokers and chose to use carousel smokers and green alder. Brisket takes 12-16 hours and we didn't want to have to pay someone to be there to keep feeding the machine, plus there can be hot spots. With ours, we smoke for about 6 hours, then the electricity continues the cooking. We smoke during the day only, with two shifts: early load and late pull. Purists might say you have to smoke the whole time, but after six hours, the smoke has penetrated the meat."

The "new" Pecos (opened 2016) is pretty much the same as the 1st Avenue Pecos. The meat and the smoking technique are the same. The barbecue sauce is the same. Jeremy has modified and added sides to broaden appeal. "We're open for lunch and dinner, with late night drive through with extended hours," explains Jeremy. "One of the things I found as I tried barbecue places around the country is that sides are often…meh. Once you have the smoky meat and tangy, peppery sauce in your mouth, the sides don't stand up to it. Our potato salad stands up to it and adds another element. Our slaw is not as sweet, it's fresher, lighter, with more vinegar. Our cowboy caviar (beans, corn, peppers, cumin vinaigrette) has clean lines and acidity. It's great on its own or on top of a salad."

They've also added moonshine, beer, ribs, chicken thighs, turkey legs, family packs, platters, daily specials and a monthly sandwich special. "In January, our sandwich special was a beef rib dip, February was a BLT with house-smoked cured bacon. In March, it's smoked corned beef-it's phenomenal! We did this for four days last year and went through 28 big corned beefs. People can pick it up cold or hot, get a whole corned beef, a sandwich, or sliders on happy hour. One of the cool things about our drive throughs which are open until 10 p.m. weeknights and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, is that you can drive through and pick up two racks of ribs or two pounds of brisket. I tell people they can be barbecue heroes: just drive through our place a few hours ahead, then throw it on the grill at home and tell everyone they smoked it!

Sweet potato with butter, white cheddar, chopped pork, sour cream, green onions 

"I get upper Choice brisket, Prime pork, chicken thighs. It's all fresh. Chain barbecue spots may have a commissary where they smoke then freeze the meat. We never freeze our food. Our potato salad is completely made at the commissary, but everything else is partially done, then actually put together at each location to ensure freshness."

Pecos has two food trucks: Betty, the original big girl at 27 feet, and the smaller Bob. You can check their website to see where Betty and Bob might be on any given day. They are also used for private events and in conjunction with catering. "We might do something for a company that involves a buffet set-up and a food truck on site. We can do the whole catering thing, be on site, set up, serve, clean, and clear out. Or we can do drop-off catering where we drop it off and the guest does the rest. We can cater the meats and let the guest provide the sides. We have packages, but anyone can get anything from our menu. We can do small or large (up to 5,000 people) events and low- or high-priced events." You can also find Pecos Pit at Husky Stadium and CenturyLink Field.

While the ultimate plan is a lot of franchising across America, there will be corporate-owned stores in Washington. "We're looking at 20 from Olympia to Lynnwood and as far east as we can go," says Jeremy. "Our organization will support will  2,400-3,500 stores across the country. We've spent the last 4-5 years putting systems and controls in place for the franchise model. We've got a giant screen where we can connect with and help franchisees without always having to travel there, although I'm looking forward to traveling. I've always loved building teams and growing people. While I do miss the creativity of being in the restaurant (note: Jeremy started with Salty's in Portland and moved to Redondo, then Seattle, becoming corporate executive chef), it has been a great challenge to build a business from the ground up. Plus it's more of a regular schedule for my family." For those wanting their own franchise, contact Global Headquarters.

Growing the company means going into a lot of different territories and regions. "We want to ensure Pecos is all-purpose: meats are simple, no fancy rubs-you should taste the essence of the meat. Smoke is clean and not abrasive. Sides work with the meats. The cool thing about barbecue is that anyone can make a decent burger or taco at home. It's tough to do good barbecue at home." So let Pecos do the work for you to enjoy.

Connie Adams/March 2020

Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que

West Seattle (with drive-through)
4400 35th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98126

SoDo (original location)
2260 1st Ave S
Seattle, WA 98134

Global Headquarters (food online delivery pick up only, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; no walk-ins)
7681 South 180th
Kent, WA 98032

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