Food / Dining

The Smoke Point BBQ and Provisions opens in San Juan Bautista

Chef Jarad Gallagher wants to change people’s idea of barbecue.

Jarad Gallagher, owner of The Smoke Point BBQ and Provisions, has an important message for lovers of fine barbecue: “Barbecue has nothing to do with the sauce. Barbecue is about how you are cooking it.”

The Smoke Point BBQ opened Nov. 11 at 206 Fourth Street in San Juan Bautista (previously the Basque Matxain Etxea Restaurant).

Bacon wrapped hot dog at The Smoke Point. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Bacon wrapped hot dog at The Smoke Point. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Describing his approach, Gallagher said, “It’s not a really aggressive style of barbecue. The sauces are not smothered on it, it’s not down-home Mom’s style. It will be a higher quality—we are not just taking cases of meat from Costco and throwing them on a smoker. There is a long process the meat goes through before we even cook it. Barbecue has very particular needs in terms of quality. The fats and the meat have to be right. Since our meat is not brined and smothered in sugar, there is nothing to mask the flavor.”

But don’t despair, sauces will still be available.

“We got them all,” he said. “North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas City, Alabama White, Central Texas vinegar-based—you will be able to pick your barbecue sauce. But our main goal is to separate people from the idea that barbecue is a sauce.”

For cooking, Gallagher will be using an off-center, Texas-style indirect smoker in which there are no coals or wood above or below the meat. 

“Our style of barbecue is so vastly different than what you would get at the barbecue festival or what other places are doing,” Gallagher said. “And we are not just offering barbecue. We are going to have steaks, roast chicken, fish and lobster. We are opening up with 10 different styles of sandwiches including a gourmet hamburger that I think will be a best-selling item on the menu. And we will be offering a beef short rib on the bone—it looks like a dinosaur bone—which will be really unique.”

Gallagher is sourcing most of his ingredients locally, including pork which will come from Nyland Ranch, as well as local produce and beef. He will also be using products created by Wise Goat Organics, a company based in Aromas and owned by his partner, Mary Risavi, which will also be available for sale.

Jarad Gallagher. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Jarad Gallagher. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The restaurant’s full-scale plans won’t be finished until next spring, but it will open with much of the design intact.

“We are looking to be an indoor-outdoor, high-energy, friends and family-oriented restaurant with a full liquor license,” Gallagher said. “It will be high-quality good American food in a fun environment.” 

News of the new restaurant has already rippled through the small town, with locals anxious for barbecue.

“We are very excited about it,” said Tami Castaneda-Huaracha, owner of Dona Esthers Mexican Restaurant. “We are looking forward to another fine restaurant coming in to town and help us promote San Juan. Having a Michelin-starred chef coming here? I can’t wait to try his place!”

Why would Gallagher, who previously worked at the Michelin-starred restaurant Chez TJ, open a business in tiny San Juan Bautista? It all comes down to location, location, location.

“I live in San Juan and I have been doing business in Silicon Valley for the last eight years,” Gallagher said. “After COVID, it became clear to me that I wanted to work in the city I live in so I can provide for our county and our community. San Juan Bautista is a smaller niche city, so you can be a small business owner and still have an impact.”

Opening night at The Smoke Point on Nov. 11. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Opening night at The Smoke Point on Nov. 11. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Gallagher, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, does not see his new venture as being any less complex than his previous experiences working at several high-end restaurants, including Skates on the Bay in Berkeley and La Folie in San Francisco.

“The business does not really spare anyone, whether you are a busboy or the owner,” he said. “It comes with an innate pressure. I foresee San Juan as being a little bit different in terms of the pressure, but not removed from it. The expectations are going to be high based on my reputation alone and people are going to have their own perception of what they want and what the value is. That will come with challenges and it will take time for me to learn how to respond to the community.”

Gallagher acknowledged that the COVID-19 restrictions have made things uncertain as he moves forward. 

“We don’t know how long this is going to go on or whether an uptick in cases as the weather gets colder, which will impact restaurants a lot,” he said. “Those are kind of the unseen factors. But what is important to me is that if we get shut down, I still want to be able to have a good offering. I have a strong sense that restaurants are essential and that people need choices during this time. But we have to be really patient. And I think if we can steer through this crisis, it will be a great opportunity for us.”


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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.