Hot sellers

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Photos by David Minton/DRC
Shawn Eagle busily cuts orders as Cody Smithers, right, chats with waiting customers Thursday at Bet the House BBQ. Owners Eagle and Smithers opened the restaurant last weekend.
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Demand exceeds supply as word spreads about new barbecue eatery

Every day since opening its doors, Bet the House BBQ has sold out before getting to dinner service.

Open for just one week, owners Cody Smithers and Shawn Eagle are still getting into the swing of things. The two friends have cooked together for years, branched into catering in 2012, and toyed with the idea of a restaurant since.

“It was here and there catering, but business started to build this past year and really took off,” Eagle said. “Every time we posted on Facebook that we were cooking, two briskets would turn into five, five racks of ribs would turn into 10. Then the next thing you know, you turn around and everyone is saying we needed to open a barbecue joint.”

What happened next came quickly, Eagle says. They started looking at places to rent and the next thing they knew had secured a storefront at 508 S. Elm St.

Without professional equipment, they started a KickStarter campaign to buy pots and pans and other basic supplies. They raised more than $5,000 in 21 days, and opened less than a month after they met the funding goal.

The meats are Bet the House’s focal point — brisket from a ranch in McKinney, specialty sausage, pork ribs, turkey and pulled pork.

Closing the restaurant’s doors when they sell out of meat is a new concept for diners in Denton, Smithers said. The operating hours say they’re open until 9 p.m., but they keep selling out at lunch.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a learning curve for us or if it will take a bit for the city to realize I’m not closing because I don’t want business — we’re closing because we don’t have anything to sell to you,” he said. “When you’re out, you’re out.”

Another curve is settling into running the business. Both owners have full-time jobs, but Eagle is able to work at the restaurant now since he has the summer off from teaching at Ryan High School. Smithers is still commuting to and from downtown Dallas, where he’s a senior business analyst for The Dallas Morning News, and making it to the restaurant in the late afternoon.

They both also have young kids and wives — Eagle’s two boys are 4 and 6, while Smithers has two daughters, a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old.

“It’s a balancing act,” Smithers said. “The biggest part right now, other than sleep, is the family side for both of us.”

Their wives have been supportive of the venture, and Eagle’s boys are excited about the business, from what he can tell. On the restaurant’s opening day, June 14, one proclaimed to everyone in line that they needed to try some of his daddy’s fatty brisket.

Smithers stops by at 4:30 a.m. to put the ribs on the smoker, while Eagle puts his specialty brisket on the night before service. Desserts come from Davis Purity Bakery, and the sides are made by hand in the morning.

Most of their goals are common of restaurateurs — have happy customers, maybe expand. But their dream is to make it to the Texas Monthly list of top 50 barbecue joints in the state.

“All we really want to do is make good barbecue, and that’s it,” Eagle said. “We just want to make good barbecue and put Denton on the map a little bit.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.

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