Smokey Pit BBQ opens in downtown West Point

Published 4:07 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

WEST POINT — Jeremy Veal-Vazquez grew up in the restaurant business with the dream of one day running his own.

When the doors open at Smokey Pit BBQ in downtown West Point Saturday afternoon, that dream turned into a reality. Veal-Vazquez, 29, is the primary owner of the restaurant but says he’s receiving tremendous help from his parents Lamar and Pam Veal.

He referred to the new restaurant as a nice, family-owned barbecue restaurant.

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“Our barbecue sauce is our specialty,” he said. “It has been in our family for over 40 years.”

Veal-Vazquez said the sauce originated with his grandfather who owned Lamar’s Smokey Pit BBQ in LaGrange in the 1980s. He said it’s a mix of sweet and spicy with a vinegar base.

“There is just enough spice in it but not enough to make you sweat, but enough that you know it’s there,” Veal-Vazquez said.

Although he understands the challenges of owning a restaurant, he believes he has the tools to be successful due to a strong family backing and experience growing up in the business. He said his mom was a server for several years and his dad cooked in restaurants for years.

Having the family support behind him as well as carrying on a family legacy is a rewarding perk to Veal-Vazquez.

“It’s big to have my grandfather’s legacy continuing with the next generation, and it is a good feeling to have my family involved and working together,” he said. “I couldn’t have it any other way.”

Veal-Vazquez said the restaurant is shooting for the southern experience while dining, meaning outside of barbecue, the business will serve country-style cooking. The hours as of Wednesday are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Smokey Pit is closed on Sunday and Monday.

“Eventually, we will add in breakfast, but we don’t want to do too much too fast,” he said.

Veal-Vazquez has big plans for Smokey Pit BBQ, saying he wants to have a venue in the upstairs portion of the building and eventually provide live music.

“I think we have a bright future in this location,” he said. “I think our aesthetic matches well with the city, and we will grow well in this town.”

He also understands the history of the building. Joe’s Tex-Mex closed its doors in January without much notice, and Sue’s Chic suddenly closed over the Fourth of July holiday with a Facebook post to the public.

Veal-Vazquez said Smokey Pit BBQ signed the lease on Fourth of July, adding that the former Sue’s Chic owner, Robert Cox, is his cousin.

“I think the biggest problem this location has faced is that the people managing it didn’t have the right vision,” Veal-Vazquez said. “We have a lot of passion behind what we do here, and we know where we want to take it, and I think that will give us a leg up.”

He said he wants to provide more of an experience and give people a good place to enjoy a meal.

The restaurant also has an alcohol license pending with the city for just beer consumption, and he hopes to have it approved by Saturday for the restaurant’s grand opening.  Veal-Vazquez said the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m. and the restaurant will sell its signature T-shirts and barbecue sauce.

The journey for Veal-Vazquez and his family has been a quick turnaround with signing a lease and opening the doors for business in less than a month. He said they wanted to open a restaurant for the past year but couldn’t find a good location. When they had knowledge Sue’s Chic was closing and had a chance to lease the business, they had a jump on it ending the yearlong search.

“Once we saw this place, we knew we had to have it,” Veal-Vazquez said.