By Sally Voth
Like a true Texan, Maricela Messner is tough.
She had her first baby about a month ago, and on Thursday, she opened her other "baby," a Dickey's Barbecue Pit franchise at 2524 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester.
Messner's husband is from the area, and they moved back a couple years ago.
"I found that there wasn't good barbecue like what I was used to in Texas," she said on the opening morning, as a line of customers stretched out the door.
Opening the franchise was a way to create "the Messner legacy," the new mom said.
The first Dickey's Barbecue Pit was started in 1941 in Dallas, Texas, by Travis Dickey, according to the company's website, www.dickeys.com. It states there are now nearly 300 restaurants.
Messner said the restaurant, which is eat-in or carry-out, and does catering, box lunches and delivery, serves eight types of barbecue -- beef brisket, pulled pork, honey ham, turkey breast, chicken breast, Polish sausage, spicy cheddar sausage and pork ribs.
Sides include coleslaw, chips, fried okra, jalapeno beans, fried onions and waffle fries. Various baked potatoes and salads are also on the menu.
"We've already got the food because of the brand -- been around since 1941, so they've perfected the recipes," Messner said. "They know what they're doing. It's up to us to make sure we have the customer service to match the food."
The big smoker behind the line cooks has 12 racks, she said.
"They load the meat in the evening, and it smokes for 14 hours," Messner said.
She said the meat is checked in the morning for taste and to ensure it's falling off the bone. Messner and the store's general manager spent two weeks at Dickey's corporate headquarters for training.
"We had to graduate from Barbecue University before we could actually get our franchise," she said.
Messner plans to open three more franchises within a 50-mile radius during the next five years.
Beth Bowen and Stephanie Lopez, both from Stephens City, were among Dickey's first customers on Thursday.
"It was really good," Bowen said.
"I plan on bringing my mom back today," she said.
Winchester resident Jeannette Ball was in the restaurant with her son, Tiger Romilus.
"I think it's delicious, wonderful," she said. "It's more than I can eat."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org