Smoked meats draw patrons to Buckin’ Barbie’s
By Karen Brainard
Smoking—as in meat smoking—has added a new dimension to one Ramona restaurant, and the owners say it’s bringing in a lot of new customers.
With a poll showing 89 percent of Ramonans are meat eaters and only 2 to 3 percent favor sushi, Kenrix Sushi owners Jama and Rick McCluskey decided they were missing out on a lot of customers.
So about five weeks ago, they added smoked meats to their menu and a new name to their business: Buckin’ Barbie Saloon & Grill.
McCluskey said they will keep the sushi bar and for now are staying with the Kenrix name. Eventually, she added, they may switch to Buckin’ Barbie, named after their daughter Harlee.
“My daughter Harlee rodeos and when she goes to rodeos, she does not look like the typical cowgirl—she’s a little blingy—they always call her ‘Hey, there’s that Buckin’ Barbie,’” explained McCluskey.
“So, since this is her legacy, she said, ‘if I’m going to be with this restaurant the rest of my life, I want my name on it.’”
The addition of smoked meats became popular in just a couple of weeks, said McCluskey.
“We’ve had more and more people coming in for the meats, we’ve never seen before,” she said. “And then our sushi clientele, they’ll order sushi and a plate of the meat.”
That plate of meat is called the Cowboy Platter and features the three smoked meats of the week. With four to six ounces of each meat, McCluskey said it easily feeds two people.
“My whole goal is every week to change up the meat. Every week you come in here, there’s always something different,” she noted. “I think the biggest thing owning a restaurant is constantly giving them a variety without a lot of cost.”
McCluskey said they have been working with their “smoker” and experimenting with different meats. During one
week the platter held brisket, chicken and duck sausage, all smoked.
“Everything is like perfectly moist. I really like it. The chicken is awesome,” shared Mario Bergeron, who was dining with his wife, Diana.
The Bergerons are owners of La Finquita Winery in Ramona and have contributed to another new element at the restaurant—the packaging of the newly-created “Hillbilly Wine.”
Served over ice in a Mason jar glass, Hillbilly Wine is part merlot, cabernet, a specific type of flavored sake, and a sangria-type punch, mixed all together with fruits, according to McCluskey.
She explained the name: “My husband and my daughter’s boyfriend drink their red wines with ice and everybody kept saying ‘you guys are so hillbilly.’”
The wheels started turning and they began blending, and Hillbilly Wine was created.
McCluskey said a couple of weeks ago, “it just became phenomenal.” They sold 41 glasses on a Saturday night.
After customers asked if they could buy the wine to take home, the McCluskeys met with the Bergerons, who introduced them to wine-to-go bags.
The disposable bags are filled with 1.5 liters or the equivalent of two bottles of Hillbilly Wine. Once the bag is open, the wine will keep for six weeks, said Mario Bergeron.
Hillbilly wine hasn’t been the only menu item that customers have asked to take home. The Louisiana-style smoked ribs are a huge hit, said McCluskey, and customers have ordered them to take home.
Tri tip has also been popular, she added, and alligator sausage was slated for the menu. For Thanksgiving, she plans on selling whole smoked turkeys.
McCluskey found her “smoker” at a rodeo. After sampling his food, she was hooked and met with him the next day. He lives in downtown San Diego and has a large machine that does the smoking.
“It’s completely stainless steel. It looks like half of a space ship with this long tunnel,” McCluskey laughed. “It’s amazing. It’s not little.”
Residents may see that machine at Buckin’ Barbie one day, as McCluskey said her smoker is considering a move to Ramona.
This month Buckin’ Barbie plans to open during the day on Saturdays and Sundays, especially to accommodate wine tasting room visitors.
They are also experimenting with different side dishes, changing the decor, adding another bar that will offer hard cider on tap, and planning to provide patio dining.
Kenrix Sushi and Buckin’ Barbie is at 2330 Main St., 760-788-8002.
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