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Local man opening southern-style barbecue restaurant in eastern Idaho

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Ruben Estrada is the owner of Raised Southern Barbecue in Shelley. | Courtesy Ruben Estrada

SHELLEY – Ruben Estrada was raised southern, but now he lives in Shelley and he’s bringing a taste of his hometown to eastern Idaho.

Raised Southern Barbecue is the name of Estrada’s restaurant, which is currently under construction at 152 S. State Street in Shelley. Estrada tells he’s hoping to open for business on Memorial Day.

“I still need to go through my final health inspections, but that is the date we’re shooting for,” Estrada says.

A grand opening is in the works sometime in June once the final reopening phase is complete.

The restaurant has operated out of a food truck in Shelley for the last year and a half. It offers traditional southern barbecue native to San Antonio, Texas, where Estrada and his wife are from.

The menu includes brisket, pulled pork, sausage made in-house, smoked turkey, St. Louis-style ribs and tri-tip. Beef ribs are a frequent specialty item.

“We do a loaded baked potato salad, southern creamed corn, baked beans, homemade mac ‘n cheese with a pork rind crust,” Estrada says.

There is also sweet tang coleslaw and four different sauces made in-house. Estrada says the most popular menu item is the Wild Bill, a half-pound brisket sausage sandwich and The Peacemaker, which is a one-pound sandwich with brisket, pulled pork, sausage and coleslaw.

Menu items offered at Raised Southern Barbecue in Shelley. | Courtesy Ruben Estrada

How Raised Southern Barbecue began

Raised Southern was originally a pop-up location in Island Park under the name Rustic Smokehouse. He and his wife opened it up “out of necessity” when the lodge where he was working as a chef closed.

“We asked them if this was going to be a year-round thing and they said yes,” says Estrada. “About two weeks after I moved here, they told me they were going to close for the winter.”

Using the two smokers he brought with him, Estrada began cooking barbecue and serving it to people.

“More people found out, and it turned into a bigger thing than I had initially planned,” he says.

After a while, Estrada says “a big fish” caught wind of him and told him he couldn’t use the rustic name anymore. That’s when he changed the name to Raised Southern Barbecue.

Though the business was successful, Estrada says Rustic Smokehouse couldn’t sustain itself because it was a seasonal business.

A customer from Shelley later sampled the menu. He liked it and wanted to invest in the business, Estrada says. Raised Southern eventually relocated as a food truck in Shelley, where that customer is now a partner in the restaurant.

Last fall, Estrada’s partner offered a building he owned as a possible location for Raised Southern Barbecue.

“We wanted something to offer year-round, so we took the chance and decided to do it,” Estrada says.

The new restaurant will include a dining room at ground level, but there will also be a soda shop downstairs in the basement. He and his wife live in an apartment upstairs because Estrada cooks meat throughout the night and he has to get up periodically to check on it.

“Our concept is we cook enough meat for the day. Once we sell out, we’re done for the day,” he says.

At the onset of the pandemic, Estrada says business at the food truck was really slow. After about a week, it really started to pick up. He later donated his services to cater lunches for teachers and administrators in Bonneville Joint School District 93.

“Their food is amazing!,” PTO President Tiffany Laslo says. “They not only prepared 118 meals for our lunch staff, but they individually packaged them to make for a contactless delivery to all the schools in the area. They also generously donated sides and drinks.”

Estrada says helping and blessing others is the purpose behind everything he does, and he wants to continue to serve the community any way he can.

“We take pride in what we do. We use fresh product, nothing is ever frozen. Everything is made from scratch,” Estrada says. “If they’ve visited any southern restaurant in the past or been to Texas, this is definitely what they’ve been missing.”

Raised Southern Barbecue will be open Tuesday through Saturday and open at 11:30 a.m. each day. Visit the website or Facebook page for more information.

The interior of the restaurant at 152 S. State Street in Shelley. | Courtesy Ruben Estrada