McKenzie’s Barbecue and Burgers

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McKenzie’s Barbecue and Burgers

At 4:00 a.m., while most local residents are (of course) still asleep, Darin McKenzie arrives at his restaurant’s Conroe location. Soon, he’s stoking the fires to smoke the brisket, ribs, sausage, and turkey breasts that have made McKenzie’s Barbeque and Burgers a popular local eatery. Although he sometimes has to arrive even earlier (at times most people would call “the middle of the night”), he does not complain.

Darin has spent the past 26 years of his life diligently managing his eponymous restaurant, serving legendary barbeque, sides, and desserts. Some of the restaurant’s offerings—like the pecan pie, coleslaw, and mac and cheese—are family recipes, and Darin prides himself on providing consistency loyal customers can count on. “I think that is why they come back,” he says. “When your name is above the door, you tend to care about what is being served.”

Darin reports he often welcomes diners who discovered the restaurant when it first opened in 1995. A 2,200-square foot cubbyhole at 1501 North Frazier, the original restaurant seated just 70 people. Although it is still in the same location, McKenzie’s has expanded twice and now includes a burger bar, as well as a spacious banquet room used by many local organizations. In addition, McKenzie’s Barbeque and Burgers has had a location in Montgomery (on Walden Road, just north of the Walmart Supercenter) for more than a decade.

Learning the family business

Colin McKenzie was just six weeks old when parents Darin and Kathy McKenzie opened their barbeque restaurant. Darin and Kathy remember Colin spending the first few months of his life in a playpen at the restaurant, or being passed from Kathy to the arms of willing customers. His sister Lauren arrived in 1998, and their baby sister Abby joined the family in 2006.

When Colin and Lauren were in elementary school, Darin bought three candy machines he positioned by the restaurant’s door. Colin and Lauren paid Darin for the machines with profits made from selling candy purchased at Sam’s Club. They took inventory, restocking when needed. They also paid attention to which kinds of candy were purchased most often. “Some candy wasn’t as popular as others,” Colin says. “We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a great introduction to business.”

Years later, after completing his freshman year at Louisiana Tech University, Colin learned he was able to apply concepts learned in his college finance classes to the restaurant. The following summer, he began to consider making McKenzie’s Barbeque and Burgers a career, following in his father’s proverbial footsteps. “I really enjoyed working with my dad,” Colin says. Father and son discussed the idea, and Darin suggested Colin speak to people he knew who had worked for their fathers in family businesses. In the end, Colin knew he wanted to be a second-generation restauranteur, and Darin approved enthusiastically. “He was all about it,” Colin says.

When Colin went back for his junior year of college, he had a different perspective. With a clear career path in mind, he looked at every class as a way to learn something applicable to the family business. “It completely changed my outlook on college,” he says. After completing his degree in finance in 2018, Colin joined McKenzie’s full time. For now, Darin has no immediate retirement plans, so the father-son duo plans to work in harmony for years to come. Local barbeque aficionados can feel secure in the knowledge that the McKenzie family will be barbequing well into the future.

Catering is one aspect of the business Colin likes best, and he is pleased the operation is thriving. Every catering job is a little different, he explains, and he enjoys making each client happy, whether it’s a bride and groom or a representative from a business, church, or family. Word is spreading, and McKenzie’s has recently catered events as far away as Louisiana and Lubbock, Texas. “We are always looking for ways to improve,” Colin says. “Every day I come to work, I try to get a little better.”

Barbecue, Burgers and Breakfast

From the very first days their restaurant was open for business, the McKenzie family has been dedicated to friendly customer service and good food known for its consistent quality. This tradition of excellence begins with the meat. Using only the best cuts of meat and quality spices, barbeque is slow-smoked up to 22 hours over hardwood fires. It’s always served fresh, and never cut until ordered. The delicious ‘Q—especially the lean brisket, which is the restaurant’s biggest seller—have made McKenzie’s Barbeque a lunch and dinner destination; however, always looking for ways to please his clientele, Darin added classic American burgers to the menu in 2005. On Memorial Day 2011, both the Conroe and Montgomery locations officially became McKenzie’s Barbeque and Burgers.

A few years ago, Darin began cooking breakfast one morning a week for a men’s group from his church. The event was so popular, he decided to open the Conroe location for breakfast on Mondays through Saturdays from 6:30 until 11 a.m. More and more people are showing up in the mornings, as word gets out about the breakfast-y goodness at McKenzie’s. Breakfast tacos (made with the barbeque made famous at lunch and dinner) are a popular choice; the breakfast menu also features such great southern favorites as biscuits and gravy, bacon, pancakes, waffles and eggs (scrambled or fried).

Over the years, the McKenzie family has earned the loyalty of many local people, and some customers are so pleased with the good food at McKenzie’s they come to the restaurant every day it is open. (McKenzie’s is closed on Sundays so the McKenzie family and their employees can rest and attend church.) “Successful restaurants are built on bringing customers back time and time again,” Colin says. “We exist because of our customers. That’s something we have been really focused on lately.”

Some customers like McKenzie’s barbeque so much, they take a bit of the flavor home with them. Sauces and spices are now available for sale at the restaurant, and can also be ordered online for delivery anywhere in the U.S. For more information, visit www.mckenziesbarbeque.com.

CONROE
1501 N Frazier
936-539-4300
MONTGOMERY
17099 Walden Rd #200
936-582-7444

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