CorkScrew BBQ is having a good week. Being named as one of the top 23 barbecue restaurants in the country by the editors of Time Out New York would be enough cause for celebration. But now its Houston-area fans have something even more important to look forward to.
On Wednesday, owners Will and Nichole Buckman announced that they've purchased a property in Old Town Spring as a permanent home for the barbecue joint that's grown from a simple trailer in a Spring parking lot into a consensus top three Houston-area barbecue destination.
"We didn’t want to move again. We are doing this so we can be permanent," Nichole Buckman tells CultureMap "This is ours. Bought by us in our name, and we will make this our home."
CorkScrew's last day in its current location that consists of a couple of trailers with a seating area of picnic tables covered by a canopy will be August 1. Work will then begin to transform the former Hyde's Cafe into CorkScrew's new location. For Nichole, the biggest benefit of the move is that it put an end to CorkScrew's tenuous lease situation and the prospect that the property it sits on could have been sold to developers at any time. When the Spring natives heard that Hyde's, which is only three-and-a-half miles from their current location, was available, they jumped on it.
Lots of changes
Buckman says the couple plans to make some fairly extensive changes to the space, such as adding garage doors to keep the patio feeling of the current location, but she acknowledges inside seating will be more comfortable for people "when it is 40 degrees or 110."
The new location will bring a host of other, positive changes. First, CorkScrew will add a beer and wine license. Other improvements include increased capacity, which will allow for more advance, bulk orders, dinner service on Friday and Saturday and lunch on Sundays.
"We have to grow sometime. We’re stuffed in there like a sausage. We could have (work for) 10 employees but we only have (room for) six," Buckman says. "It’s like LA Barbecue or Franklin. You get to that point where a trailer just doesn’t suffice . . . We don’t have the prep space. I work out of the pit room as my office."
While the vast majority of CorkScrew patrons have reacted favorably to the news since the Chronicle published it on Wednesday, enough of a minority have expressed concerns about it being too far from The Woodlands that widely read blogger Albert Nurick addressed the issue in his Woodlands Area Foodies Facebook group. "I think Corkscrew has enough of a following that they'll have plenty of business," Nurick writes. "For a less notable restaurant, a move like this would be ill-advised . . . My gut tells me that Corkscrew's reputation will keep them busy. I hope I'm right."
Buckman says she understands those concerns but notes that CorkScrew has always drawn from The Woodlands, Spring and points farther south. The location will be more convenient for a significant percentage of their customers. In addition, finding a stand alone location in The Woodlands that was affordable proved impossible. "We can’t have a strip center business. No one is going to lease to us with two wood-burning pits connected to a building. It’s just not who we are," she notes.
Remain the same
For all the changes coming to CorkScrew, Buckman makes clear that one thing will remain the same. "Will will be tending the pits. We are still going to be 100-percent into the business just like we are now. Us being at the restaurant will be focusing on making everything perfect and not so much on being in the kitchen. He will be the pitmaster and he will be cooking the meat day in and day out."
The Buckmans have spent four years establishing themselves as one of Houston's top barbecue destinations. With a new, bigger, permanent home, they're setting themselves up for decades of success. Hopefully, Woodlanders will find enough reasons to drive a little farther down I-45. If not, the line will be a little shorter for everyone else.