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East Idaho Eats: Local man loves sharing southern dishes with customers in eastern Idaho

East Idaho Eats

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Ruben Estrada stokes the fire of his meat smoker at his Shelley restaurant. Get a look at some of his dishes in the video above. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

SHELLEY – Ruben Estrada of Shelley was raised southern and it’s a fact he enjoys sharing with customers who frequent his restaurant every day.

Raised Southern BBQ opened at 152 South State Street in Shelley last August and Estrada tells EastIdahoNews.com it’s a thrill to serve authentic southern dishes he grew up making and eating in San Antonio, Texas.

“It’s been wonderful. The community’s really surrounded us. We have a bunch of regulars that come in … at least once a week and we’re still becoming a place where people are finding out about,” he says.

Estrada says he’s served customers from Pocatello, Boise and even St. George, Utah.

The menu includes a variety of sandwiches, nachos, mac ‘n’ cheese and other sides, served with brisket, pulled pork, turkey, ribs, pork chops, tri-tip or sausage. Wild Bill is the signature item, which is a brisket and sausage sandwich. The most popular order is the brisket nachos.

“The nachos are something everybody likes to get because it’s familiar. I actually made it as a joke,” says Estrada. “I follow a lot of the other barbecue places and there was a bunch of comments that were like, ‘So-and-so has the best nachos,’ and I’m like ‘I’m going to prove them wrong.'”

All the meat is served fresh daily, which spends 16 hours in a smoker behind the restaurant. Estrada and his wife live in a studio apartment on the second floor, which allows him to watch it closely throughout the night.

Serving his food the Texas way requires a lot of effort and he says every day is a learning process.

“We have a stick burner that is pure wood. We don’t have any propane or gas to back us up, so we have to constantly watch the fire to make sure we’re going to be ready on time and producing the right kind of smoke,” he says.

By design, Estrada doesn’t have any freezers in his restaurant. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. each day and remains in operation until all the meat sells out.

“We don’t want to have to give you something that’s reheated or recooked. We try to steer away from that because it’s not the same quality of product you’ll get if it’s fresh,” Estrada says.

EastIdahoNews.com stopped by the restaurant and sampled some of the menu. Watch it in the video player above.

Ruben Estrada poses for a photo at Raised Southern BBQ in Shelley. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

A turbulent beginning

Opening a restaurant was a natural fit for Estrada. He grew up in the restaurant industry and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio six years ago.

Estrada’s restaurant concept first got started as a pop-up location in Island Park about three years ago. It was originally called Rustic Smokehouse. A Texas bar caught wind of his establishment and claimed ownership rights to the name.

“They were a multimillion-dollar company. Instead of fighting them and wasting money, we decided to rebrand. I wanted to keep the ‘R-S’ so … it became Raised Southern,” says Estrada.

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Raised Southern was a seasonal operation at that point and Estrada wanted something that was sustainable year-round. Shane and Danielle Matheson from Shelley later sampled the menu. They liked it and wanted to invest in the business.

“They lived here and raised their kids here and they felt like this was a great community for us to grow in,” Estrada says.

He relocated the restaurant to Shelley as a food truck before opening a permanent location last year.

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Estrada recently made an agreement with Roger and Heidi Merrill, the owners of the Playmill Theater, to be the executive chef at their Island Park location once it’s complete. He’s looking forward to getting involved with that and he’d like to open two more restaurants in Shelley over the next several years.

“I figure if they can trust me doing barbecue then they can trust me doing other items,” he says. “We want to make Shelley a food destination for people.”

Estrada says he thoroughly enjoys what he does and he’s grateful to have a permanent home in Shelley.

“If people would love to try us, we’d love to have you. Just get here early so you can get what you want,” he says.

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