OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Due to the pandemic, the Nebraska Restaurant Association says at least 6 percent of restaurants in the state are expected to close for good. So while you're out holiday shopping — remember them, too.
3 News Now anchor, Serese Cole visited one barbecue business that would be a delicious stop while you're out and about this holiday season.
When it comes to good barbecue, Omahans can’t get enough.
So when John Sgourakis was looking for a new barbecue restaurant to bring to Omaha, Oklahoma Joe’s was a good fit.
"We knew everybody had heard of Oklahoma Joes," Sgourakis said. "We loved the barbecue, we loved the food, we loved the atmosphere, so we struck up a deal and brought it to Aksarben."
Two years later, the food still doesn't disappoint.
Their secret? The sauce and the smoke.
"People literally come in for the sauce. If they can't get a bottle, they'll pay $50 for a huge jug,” said manager Robin Curry.
Oklahoma Joe’s smokes their meat every day in-house. Thirty slabs were smoking in old hickory when we stopped by, but the burnt ends are the most popular.
“They are just tender and amazing," said Curry. "I always smoke them for 17 hours and then on top of that they're caramelized and baked in sauce."
All that goodness has been good for business, and a location in Aksarben Village meant even more foot traffic.
"This place was hopping. I mean, you've got HDR across the street and you've got a bunch of office buildings and people activity and every weekend there was a concert," said Sgourakis.
The pandemic changed all of that.
Sales at Oklahoma Joe’s are down 35 percent this year, so they're relying on things like curbside pickup, carryout and delivery.
“We're kind of getting catering back. We're staying afloat at least,” said Sgourakis.
After 25 years in the restaurant industry, Sgourakis has never seen anything like it.
"It's very scary, especially when you feel like you have so many people to take care of. It's our managers, it's our staff. They depend on you to open those doors. A lot of our employees depend on this money to pay their tuition,” said Sgourakis.
Despite the pandemic, their recipe for success is the same.
"We're like a family, so we treat you like you're our family,” said Curry.
Customers appreciate that.
"I came in last Wednesday, really surprised how good it was, so I came back again today," said customer Chuck Browne. "This is my new favorite restaurant."
That support means everything to folks at Oklahoma Joe’s.
"A lot of times people consider us a franchise and you hear all the time support local. Well, we are local. I’m born and raised here. My manager is born and raised here. All of our employees are from Omaha,” said Sgourakis.
Food for thought as they join restaurants all across the metro just trying to stay open.
Oklahoma Joe’s has several holiday specials going on right now including smoked holiday hams.
They're also offering extra savings on their gift cards.
For more information, visit their website.
Read about other local businesses: Shop The Heartland For The Holidays