It's probably a cliché. Definitely a cliché. But Lance and Boo Eaker were talking one day in early 2020, starting their third year owning and operating a barbecue food truck, and had reached a crossroads. It was either this or that. Cliché, but it happens.
"My wife told me, 'This was my last year on the truck,'" says Lance Eaker, a former consultant who his chased dreams of owning a food truck. Boo was a fashion designer who left the industry for the truck. It had been a few hard years; you could understand why they had reached a crossroads.
"She said, 'Either we get a restaurant or we get new jobs. We're done,'" says Lance. "You work so hard for very little revenue, and you lose all this time and you're showing up for ..." He stops. Chasing one's dreams can be overwhelming.
So Eaker Barbecue geared up for the big move. Lance wanted to open his restaurant, and the good news was that 2020 was going well for the couple. Not only were they parked at places like Karbach Brewing and Truck Yard, serving Lance's mesquite-and-post-oak-fueled 'cue and Boo's sides inspired by her Korean heritage, but they were catering for the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. They were poised to make the leap.
We all know what happened next. Covid-19 reduced Eaker Barbecue to just the truck. It went back to its roots, the Eaker's Westbury neighborhood where locals came by multiple times a week to eat brisket and gochujang pork ribs. But the pandemic also increased the urgency for Lance and Boo—it was now or never time. So they got their restaurant ... in Fredericksburg.
"You're nuts," Boo said last summer to a friend who had suggested Fredericksburg as the best place to open a smokehouse. It's a city with a population of 10,000 and five established smokehouses. It didn't seem like a feasible place to open a new pit, but the Eakers were underestimating the Hill Country tourism destination.
"You have a city that has been growing for a long time," says Lance. "And you have this intentional process in developing tourism, and they've done a phenomenal job of keeping what they had and developing it further."
So the Eakers made multiple trips to Fredericksburg, sold their Westbury home, and started looking for a new residence and business space. They honed in one available space, possibly available for rent, that already had an interested party. They booked it back to Fredericksburg to possibly meet with the owner, and after a successful conversation, the owner broke off talks with the other party and signed a deal with the Eakers.
At the same time, a friend let them stay in their ranch guest house until they can get settled. So they signed the lease in January 2021, moved around February, and despite missing a little bit of build-out time because of the winter storm, are now ready to debut the new digs.
The new Eaker Barbecue in Fredericksburg, which should open around Memorial Day weekend, has 2,000 square feet with a courtyard and large backyard, perfect for outdoor seating. Folks can enjoy those Mesquite and Post Oak-fueled meats with sides like kimchi fried rice, and, in time, the Eakers hope to expand the menu with comfort fare—smoked burgers, a Korean fried chicken sandwich, and chicken fried steak.
The food truck, unfortunately, will go away for now. There's no need for it up there, but that's the way it goes. Cliché as it seems, every ending brings a new beginning.
"It was a great experience and a tremendous amount of work," says Lance. "I probably look 20 years older than I actually am. But it set us up for the next move."