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Barbecue business gets smoking





Mitch and Hannah Glinka knew they wanted to open a restaurant in town. The couple, who moved to Ellis County last fall, thought Hays already had plenty of Mexican restaurants, but something was missing.

"We eat out a lot, and we eat in Hays often," Mitch Glinka said. "We just noticed there never really was a barbecue restaurant, and I really enjoy barbecue."

On April 8, the couple opened the Smoking Barrel, a barbecue restaurant located at 1006 Cody. The couple said they have been swamped with diners since they opened.

"It was amazing," Hannah Glinka said. "All we did was put out 300 fliers, and a week and a half into it, we did our radio advertisement.

"We've exceeded many limitations in life. We'll give it our best."

Hannah, who grew up in Ellis, owned a Daylight Donut shop there for many years before moving away. For more than a decade, she has been in construction, as a heavy-equipment operator.

"I traveled all over the Western states," Hannah said.

Mitch, an Air Force brat who lived throughout the country as a child, started as a dishwasher at a French restaurant in Omaha, Neb., and worked his way up to be a sous chef. He then became an executive chef at a catering facility in Omaha.

Mitch, 38, ended up working together with Hannah, 34, operating heavy equipment. When they moved to Victoria, the plan was to make the town their home base while still traveling in the construction industry.

"We had talked about opening a restaurant for years, with both of our experience in the restaurant industry," Mitch said.

"We thought we would be older when we did this," Hannah said. "We moved here in October; (Mitch) loves it here. I didn't expect that. He's always lived in bigger cities."

Mitch said he likes living in a small town, and he also is able to go hunting at a moment's notice. He's an avid duck hunter.

So the plan changed, and they are in the restaurant business earlier than expected.

The shirts the employees wear have a gun as part of the logo. The smoking barrel also has a connotation for the smokers used by Mitch.

"I've been smoking on a stick burner for years," Mitch said. "It's a barrel-type smoker, always smoke coming out of the stack."

The restaurant also has a commercial Traeger grill. Mitch said the pulled pork or brisket customers eat on a Monday tastes the same when you come back Friday.

"In the restaurant industry, you want to be consistent," Mitch said, noting the pulled pork seems to have become a customer favorite.

When entering the restaurant, customers hear blues music and can see vinyl records on the wall. The menu has all the barbecue favorites: pulled pork, brisket, ribs.

"I've lived all over the United States, and I've eaten barbecue everywhere from Carolina down South, Midwest," Mitch said. "It's always been one of my favorites. ... Everything here is dry rubbed; nothing's really sauced."

The restaurant does have a selection of sauces, though.

"Everybody has a different taste," Mitch said. "Some people like it sweet; some people like it smoky or spicy."

The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. They have done some catering and hope to do more. Customers can call (785) 621-4247 for takeout orders.