Memphis, Tennessee is famous for its barbecue. A local couple is hoping the same can be said for the city’s namesake here in northeast Missouri. Gary and Sharon Shoop recently opened Papa G’s BBQ Smokehouse on the southwest corner of the Memphis, Missouri city square.
Ironically, Gary traces his start in the BBQ business to some friends from Tennessee who talked him into purchasing his first smoker.
“They got us started,” said Gary. “They would visit and bring their gear and do some cooking while they were here. Then we joined them at a couple of competition barbecues. We had so much fun, they finally talked us into buying our first smoker.”
The results have been the gain of Memphis, as Shoop has spent the years since that first purchase honing his skills. He ultimately bought a second smoker from his friends and now with Papa G’s opening is looking at expanding to a third, larger unit.
Gary started barbecuing professionally after entering a few BBQ contests and earning good results.
“Gary won a rib contest two years ago and was second last year,” said Sharon. “From there he started cooking for special events, catering wedding receptions, reunions and birthday parties.”
From there it was just time until the couple made the jump to the restaurant business. Sharon already had 14 years of experience in the industry, but even that did not prepare the Shoops for May 15th when they opened the doors on Papa G’s for the first time.
In the five regular business hours that night, Sharon said the restaurant fed 240 patrons, with another 300 on day two, bringing the total to 540 in a day and a half.
“It was a bit overwhelming,” confessed Sharon. “We quickly figured out that we had some bugs to work out in the kitchen as the wait was too long for our customers. We’re better organized now and have a lot of those problems fixed.”
Unlike most restaurants a smokehouse requires substantial time to properly prepare the BBQ.
“The ribs and chicken take three to four hours, while pork and beef brisket can cook 10 to 12 hours,” said Gary. “So it’s not like a burger that you can just throw on the grill, flip it a couple times and it’s done.”
The time consuming process makes for some long days for Gary.
“We were so busy opening week,” he said. “I did a lot of smoking and very little sleeping.”
With business hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, the BBQ smokers are churning out that pleasant aroma non-stop for nearly five days as the cooking often commences on Tuesday night for Wednesday’s lunch crowd.
The menu features pulled pork, pulled brisket, pulled chicken, ham and turkey breast. The baby back ribs are covered with Gary’s own rub recipe before being slow cooked over cherry wood, before receiving a honey rub. The beef and pork are cooked over hickory wood.
“We make our own rubs and BBQ sauces,” said Gary. “They have been perfected over the years.”
Other specialty items include the loaded baked potato and the BBQ sundae that is baked beans layered with pulled pork or brisket with coleslaw. Then there is the Hungry Man Platter, the best of all worlds, with a combination of pulled pork or brisket, a trio of ribettes as well as a chicken leg quarter.
Papa G’s BBQ Smokehouse offers daily and evening specials, such as a recent prime rib dinner.
“We’re trying to get a feel for what people like best so we can plan the daily specials,” said Sharon.
With the excellent initial turnout, it appears all the menu items qualify for the special label.