Smokers in Mission, McAllen’s driving business with a personal touch, creative meats


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Jaime Elizondo, owner of Smoke Crafters BBQ and Beer Garden, cuts a smoked brisket Thursday, June 22, 2023, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez |[email protected])

MISSION – Smoke Makers BBQ is more than just a great barbecue. It’s an experience.

That whole experience is fulfilled with care and dedication by the owners, Jaime Elizondo and his wife, Maria Elena Deleon; From the butter brush to the carpet covered sidewalk and everything in between.

More importantly, there is a special focus on customer service next to nothing else.

“I’m here because I want to give something to my customers,” Elizondo said. “I’m not here to, you know, take advantage of anybody or get money from anybody. I really care about the customer experience. “

Like most great barbecue stories, the history of Smoke Crafters began with wood and fire in the backyard.

“It was definitely a hobby,” Elizondo said. “Growing up, my brothers and I were always barbecuing and grilling and making stuff. When I got into the technical stuff, understanding what was going on with the meat and all that, that was more of a hobby.”

As that hobby grew, Elizondo and his wife continued to perfect their recipes. Eventually, they felt it was time to share their food with the world.

They held their first pop-up event in 2018, which was a huge success.

“We had an amazing turnout,” he recalled. “We sold out of food in two hours that day. We were at a brewery and they ran out of beer while we were there, so they were very happy to have us back.

With more successful pop-up events, came the need for a food truck. Until this time, they used a few heaters for the meat and a small grill for the hamburger buns.

On Thursday, June 22, 2023, a slice of juice will appear at Smoke Crafters BBQ & Beer Garden in McAllen. (Joel Martinez |[email protected])

When the business started to take off, there was also the question of balancing their time. Both Elizondo and his wife had full-time jobs; He was a registered nurse and his wife worked at South Texas College.

While continuing his part-time career in nursing, he now turns his attention to Smokecraft Professionals. He can count on his crew, including pitmaster Fernando Valles, affectionately known as Tank.

Valles served 10 years in the US Army, and is currently serving seven years in the Army. Worked at Smoke Crafters for 11 months.

“I love it. I love it,” Valles said. “From day one, you know, I had to learn a lot about barbecue. I’ve only smoked two bricks my whole life, and then here Jamie showed me the way.”

He said he is preparing for his final deployment with the Army Reserves, but expects to be back soon, spending time with his family smoking meat on the barbecue.

“It’s definitely a labor of love,” Elizondo said. “Barbecue is not easy, you know. Anyone who goes into a barbecue thinking they’re going to relax and have a day off and make a lot of money won’t last long.

Since its inception, Smoke Crafters has expanded to two locations, including a food truck at the Kickin’ Ax stand in McAllen.

An indoor dining area was built out of a shipping container at Smoke Crafters BBQ and Beer Garden on Thursday, June 22, 2023 in McAllen. (Joel Martinez |[email protected])

A photo of Elizondo holding a sign outside 10th Street and trying to attract customers to the new location was shared by Smoke Crafter’s social media accounts.

“Business is very slow, I bought ads, posted on social media, went to nearby businesses to promote myself and bought light signs to get attention. I have done it all,” the post read.

The post garnered a lot of attention online, and Elizondo said the community saw it in the days that followed — resulting in the entire site being sold out.

“You know, people are nice,” he said. “They want to help. They just don’t know. You know, they don’t know the situation.”

Smoke Crafters BBQ in Mission is open Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. The McAllen location is open Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m.


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