Culpeper’s favorite Texas pulled pork and brisket are coming to downtown Culpeper with the plan to set up shop in its own brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“It’s exciting,” said Burnt Ends Owner and Pitmaster Maria Riojas. “It’s nerve-racking as well, but it’s very exciting that everything that we’ve put in place and planned for is starting to come through.”
The ever-so-loved mobile eatery will open on the ground floor of the Lord Culpeper Hotel on South Main Street across the way from Shenandoah Garden Spot. The prospective opening date is late July.
Riojas opened Burnt Ends in 2015 via its first mobile trailer, which now sits stationary on James Monroe Highway. Due to the great reception from their dedicated customer base, the restaurant soon grew to add two more trailers to travel to area wineries, breweries and weddings.
Although the plan to open up a restaurant was always the plan, Riojas said the volume at which Burnt Ends is currently producing made them finally pull the trigger.
“We’re booked six months to a year in advance with the mobile trailers,” she said. “We’re at a point where that is running smoothly, so now we’re ready to take it to the next step.”
The eatery's signature menu stemmed from Riojas’s husband Ronnie, who grew up in Texas eating at his father’s barbecue restaurant in Austin.
“It’s really a family business,” Riojas said. “The Riojas family has been in the food industry forever.”
After moving to Virginia in 2010, the pair would smoke brisket at home and invite neighbors over to enjoy it. The food was so well received, people began to tell them they should begin selling it.
Despite coming from hard and software backgrounds, Riojas took everything from her husband’s father’s restaurant and replicated it.
“Really to take this on our own and not have any family here, it’s really just been us finding our way,” Riojas said.
Taking their recipes on the road gave the new restauranteurs the opportunity to take their food to customers and figure out which menu items worked and which didn’t. They increased their brand awareness and grew even more during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The restaurant location was secured around Christmas time, but construction updates did not begin until March. Since a restaurant formerly operated out of the space, construction primarily includes style elements.