by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace
The day Jake’s Craft BBQ opened in Oxford was the day that the city announced they would be closing all dining rooms due to COVID-19.
“I was nervous there for a little while, but things worked out for me,” Jake Houston said.
Jake has always been in the restaurant industry, and that was his first job.
“I got my first car and got my license, and my dad was like, ‘How much gas you have left?’ And I was like, ‘About half a tank;’ he was like, ‘You have half a tank to find a job,’” he laughed. “So I got my first job at a barbecue place here in town.”
Through his food truck, he hopes to gain enough of a following to eventually open a storefront. In the meantime, he wanted to bring different types of barbecue to the area for people to experience.
“I kind of want to bring a new spin to barbecue,” he said. “There’s all different regions of barbecue, vastly different styles, and I have never had one that I don’t like, but, you know, you have to travel to different destinations.”
To bring a new twist, Houston allows customization. Customers pick a sandwich or taco, the meat, the sauce, the toppings, and it’s a completely customizable sandwich. Of course, there’s the “Just make me something good” option, which was inspired by an instant fan of the truck.
But no matter what gets built inside the truck, customers can know one thing: at Jake’s, there’s no reheating. All the smoked meats are done the day of, and conveniently, right in the truck where the smoker is. Houston joked that installing the smoker into the truck just makes good business sense.
“It’s a secret type of advertising,” he said. “If I’m driving by and I smell barbecue, I instantly get hungry for barbecue.”
In addition to making sure the meats are freshly prepared, everything else is pretty much done in-house – or rather in-truck – too. Houston makes every sauce, all six, and all seven pickled toppings himself. With everything he has going on in his truck, it can get pretty cramped, but it’s worth it because he gets to combine two of his greatest passions: the outdoors and the kitchen.
He said that luckily, his wife is a Type-A personality, who “Marie Kondo’ed” the truck.
“I’d be up a creek without her,” he laughed.