Downtown Madisonville was abuzz last week as word spread that there was a new barbecue restaurant in town.
McKenzie Barbeque, at 1711 East Main St., held a soft opening on June 25 and already has a steady stream of customers.
“We didn’t start out busy, but the word got out through Facebook and we actually sold out of some things,” said owner Kevin McKenzie.
With his brother Darin, McKenzie opened his first restaurant in Huntsville in 1992, followed by successful franchises in Conroe and Montgomery.
“I’ve been wanting to come to Madisonville for a long time,” McKenzie said. “We like the small towns, the hometown feel. We’ve been coming here for years. I like sitting down with people and getting to know them. They’re investing in our lives; I would like to invest in their lives too.”
In fact, even though the McKenzies live in Huntsville, his daughters – one in junior high and one in high school – get their education in Madisonville.
“They have good schools here,” McKenzie said.
And though the owner splits his time among venues, he guarantees “there will always be a McKenzie” at the local restaurant. His sons Keith and Matthew run the Madisonville venue and are part owners.
The site used to be a home but was remodeled and can accommodate events, rehearsal dinners and family reunions. One room can seat up to 70, and a smaller room has space for about 25 patrons. The restaurant also takes call-in orders, to-go orders and caters on location.
“We still do things the hard way, the old-fashioned way,” McKenzie said. “We make our own potato salad and coleslaw every day.”
The restaurant is known for its brisket and ribs. They use sauce from Bodacious Barbeque, where McKenzie got his start. He also grew up in the kitchen, cooking alongside his mother.
“I was the chief gravy stirrer for years,” he said.
It’s clear that McKenzie’s is a family business. Most of the paintings on the wall were designed by Kevin’s grandmother; the photographs were taken by his older brother, who passed away a couple of years ago. Wooden décor comes from an old house that was demolished in Madisonville.
McKenzie welcomes patrons and said he doesn’t want to compete with any of the other local venues.
“There’s other good restaurants in town,” he said. “We’re not going to take anything away from them.”
McKenzie’s Barbeque is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.