MATHIS – It all started simple enough. The Mathis News in March did a story on Smolik’s Smokehouse highway location, which serves as a sort of Mathis museum. There’s tons of history on not only the town, but also on Mike and Gail Smolik. The two run both Smolik’s Smokehouse locations, and each have deep ties to the area.
Over the course of 2017, Smolik’s would make the cover of Mathis News five times.
Then in May it was announced that Smolik’s had made the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas list, and things changed for the couple and their local barbecue restaurants.
Sales for the restaurant jumped 30 percent after the magazine issue, and the couple saw people from all over the country – and even some from across the globe – stop in to try their now-famous barbecue.
And the list also literally put them on the map for places to stop and grab some grub.
“It’s been a good year,” Mike said grinning. “I don’t think it could’ve gotten any better for us this year and I hope we have more like it.”
“It’s been almost unbelievable,” Gail added. “So often we’ve had to stop and pinch ourself and think, ‘Did all this really happen?’
“Between the San Pat EDC and Texas Monthly, it’s been just amazing.”
Not only did Smolik’s make the coveted Top 50 list, they were also recognized by the San Patricio EDC for their accomplishments and were invited to attend Texas Monthly’s annual BBQ Festival in Austin.
On the small scale, Smolik’s Smokehouse downtown location is ramping up to cater to the evening crowds a little more by featuring food only found at the highway location.
“We started out not wanting to flush out the business of the highway location, but now my intention is to bring back chicken fried steaks and some of the other stuff like that to bring in the crowds in the evening,” Mike said.
Along with highway location pitmaster John Rodriguez, they also plan on finishing up the barbecue trailer they had made to travel to the barbecue festival and park it out by the highway location.
“John wants to cook chicken and ribs on it,” Mike added. “Maybe send a little more smoke up into the air to lure people off the highway,” he said laughing.
But on a larger scale, Smolik’s is going statewide, possibly nationwide, with their local eats.
Currently, Smolik’s is clearing out space for storage to hold about 6,000 pounds of meat ready to be shipped via online and mail orders.
“We already have the website and we’re just waiting for it to launch,” Mike said. “It’s going to be neat, it’s just been hard to get there.”
Gail added, “We had somebody who was in Corpus for a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia. He asked where’s a good place to go since I’m in the area? They told him to go to Mathis and eat at Smolik’s.
“So that was just a big thrill. So enjoyed what he had so he had to take some back to Atlanta. That kind of stuff will help the mail order business when we get our name out there.”
And after their massively-successful year, Mike and Gail still know the main reason for their success.
“We’ve had so many tell us that they’re so proud of us and it’s just been so heartwarming to have the community response that we’ve been getting – truly heartwarming,” Gail said.
“We’d like to thank you for almost 30 years of supporting us. We’ve been doing this since 1989 and these are the people that we’ve grown up with and have been around our whole lives.
“Some of our older workers have been with us for almost 20 years and those are the foundation of the business.”
There seems to be a lot of things coming from Smolik’s in 2018, and they obviously show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
“This year has been crazy,” Gail said with a smile as she headed back to work, getting holiday gift baskets prepped for Christmas orders.