Gig Harbor resident Gary Parker is bringing his authentic Texas barbecue to market. The former Intel engineer/executive opened his BBQ2U restaurant at 4814 Pt. Fosdick Dr. in Gig Harbor on March 2, Texas’ Independence Day.
A 20-year Harbor resident, Parker was raised in Austin. There, barbecue and meat smoking is a way of life.
Parker has catered his barbecue fare as a side hustle for about a decade. When he retired from Intel earlier this year, he decided to go all-in with his food service and open a sit-down restaurant.
“I knew I was onto something when I moved here and started smoking meat on my deck,” he said. “My neighbor came out and asked why my deck was on fire. I invited him to try the barbecue. Next thing I knew I was catering his son’s graduation party.”
From there, word got out and he began catering at other events around the area.
It’s a unique food for Pacific Northwesterners, he said. Part of his mission is educating customers about what they are ordering and how to select what they want.
For example, a brisket — the most popular menu item — has two ends, the point and the flat. The point is the fatty end, also called “the wet,” while the flat is a leaner cut. Most people will ask for the wet, then they are disappointed that the meat is fatty, he said. It is just a matter of educating the customers about how to order what they prefer.
Parker continues to cater, but his restaurant is set up to reflect the authentic Texas barbecue experience. Before refrigeration, meat had to be sold quickly or smoked. The best cuts went to the richest families. The poor were left with the tougher cuts. Slaughter shops would smoke the meat so it wouldn’t spoil, then sell it out of the back of the shop.
His restaurant features a cutting board by the register so customers can watch their selection be prepared. Ovens in the back are visible from the ordering counter.
Adding to the authenticity, Parker imports the oak he uses for the smoking from Texas. He also serves Big Red soda, which has a cult-like following in Texas, and pickled jalapeños and white bread, which are also Texas staples.
“People who know barbecue will come in here and they see what we have, and they get tears in their eyes,” Parker said.
While brisket and ribs are the most popular items, BBQ2U also serves chicken, turkey and other meat options. Vegetarian fare is available for those who call ahead to request it.