Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que announced its expansion to Yelm on May 10, 2023, and over eight months later, on Friday, Jan. 26, the barbecue restaurant celebrated its grand opening and officially welcomed customers into the business.
Gerry Kingen, owner of Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que and founder of Red Robin, attended the grand opening event in Yelm and spoke to many of the customers dining and celebrating the official opening.
“We’re tickled pink to be here. My wife’s family has a big ranch just outside of town in McKenna. I’ve always loved Yelm, but my businesses are in Seattle, so that’s where I live,” Kingen said. “We come out here a lot throughout the course of the year, and it’s always such a charming community. You can decompress here versus being hyper-active in Seattle. You can live a quality life down here, whereas up there, it’s kind of crazy.”
Kingen said he fell in love with Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que in West Seattle prior to becoming the owner, stating it had an “addicting quality of product.” The former owner of Pecos Pit told Kingen that he was getting too old to keep up with the business, and Kingen eventually purchased the restaurant.
Like he did with Red Robin, Kingen aims to turn Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que into a national chain. He added that Yelm’s location is the first restaurant under the national chain umbrella.
“Barbecue is an interesting thing. I didn’t know it but barbecue is one of the most popular products in the world. We’re very lucky. It’s going to be a fun ride and provide lots of opportunities and rewards for a lot of good people,” Kingen said. “You go through a lot of mental gymnastics to imagine creating something like this. You’re looking at the best in class for all the elements, and how do you get them to fit together and complement the other elements. When you see this and see the people inside enjoying it the way they are, and watching your people back there producing quality food back there — you almost get a little teary-eyed. It’s very gratifying.
“Red Robin was a little, tiny tavern doing popcorn, and I took that thing and ran it across the nation. It didn’t happen overnight. It took five or six years to get it dialed up to where the crazy price complemented the crazy burgers, and the environment excited people of all ages,” Kingen added. “We were able to ramp that up and franchise it, which is what we’re doing with Pecos. It’s fun to be here, and hopefully the community will get a chance to come down and say hello.”
Through communicating with customers and trial and error, Kingen said Pecos identified people’s preference of meat. He said the restaurant tests the market, tests the biases and serves the product best suited for the community.
He also said building strong relationships with community members and patrons of Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que ensures families and customers have positive experiences at the restaurant.
“Look at how young those kids are,” he said, referring to children leaving with their mother. “I’m 80 years old and I love barbecue, and they seemingly did too. Everybody loves barbecue, and we proved that at the public market in Seattle. We handed out samples for about four to five months. We found that everyone, all genders, races, sexes, it didn’t matter, they all loved barbecue,” Kingen said. “The best judge of whether or not this works out is the customer. We give a lot of free samples out to find out because with anything we’re considering doing, we look at if it complements what we’re doing and if there’s a bias for it.”
Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que features a wide variety of dining options, including an assortment of sandwiches featuring chopped pork, beef brisket or smoked chicken. The business also offers bowls or platters with chopped pork, beef brisket, chicken thighs or all beef hotlinks. The bowl or platter options include a mac-and-cheese bowl, a loaded baked potato or a salad.
The restaurant also sells pork ribs in quarter, half and full racks, as well as beef brisket, chopped pork, all beef hotlinks and smoked chicken thighs by the pound. It offers a variety of sides, including potato salad, smoked mac and cheese, spicy beans and more.