Lawrence barbecue in Research Triangle Park is a collaborative Innovation Center founded to improve economic outcomes for the citizens of North Carolina. It offers all the best parts of city living meeting acres of greenspace. From collaborative, customizable workspace and pioneering new restaurant concepts to outdoor space where one can find everything needed to thrive.
It’s Raleigh-Durham’s first pop-up mall and will be a “next generation” retail destination.
Constructed entirely of repurposed shipping containers and surrounding outdoor courtyard and music pavilion, it’s a place for people to relax, unwind and enjoy food, beverages, and specialty goods from handpicked local brands. And that’s where you will find the Lawrence Barbecue.
Boxyard is turning shipping containers into functional spaces, while Lawrence Barbecue, led by Jake Wood and his wife Brandi, are turning taste-palates to true barbeque. Jake shares his experience in the barbecue business.
Lang: We always find it interesting to ask how people come up with their company names?
JW: Lawrence is my family’s name, on my mother’s side and it is specifically named in honor of my late Papa, Allen Lee Lawrence, and my Granny Helen Lawrence who is still with us and still cooking today.
Lang: Where is Lawrence Barbecue located?
JW: Boxyard RTP in Durham, NC. It’s an upcycled shipping container complex.
Lang: What was the reason for starting the business?
JW: I wanted to create something for my family, and have a business built on a culture of quality of life for our team.
Lang: Were you cooking/barbecuing before you started the business?
JW: No. I spent many years in the fine dining scene in downtown Raleigh. Before that, believe it or not, I was a sushi chef. Barbecue and smoking meats are what my family always did and something I’ve always done in my free time. That taught me a great deal about barbeque.
Lang: Do you have a partner?
JW: My wife Brandi and I own the company, and we have a financial partner that has helped us get to where we are.
Lang: What would you say makes your business unique?
JW: We serve barbecue, oysters, and leisure beverages. We have a leisure bar called Lagoon opening on top of the shop next month. Lagoon is our Leisure Bar that will be situated on top of Lawrence on what we call the “Party Deck.” It will have a small menu of beer, wine, and hand-crafted tiki inspired “Leisure Bevs”. We will also have a small bar snack menu that will come from the kitchen downstairs.
Our shop is extremely small however, we are in a complex that has over 300 picnic style seats covered and uncovered along with a stage for live music. We pump out a ton of volume, but our actual footprint is rather small.
Lang: What is most challenging about running your business?
JW: Learning how to handle the growing volume out of our tiny shop with a small staff and most importantly, before our smokehouse is complete.
Lang: Do you have a restaurant, a food truck?
JW: We have a restaurant.
Lang: Can you share how you went about starting the business?
JW: I filed the forms online while sitting in the NICU with our newborn son, Lawrence. Then I worked hard on my business plan to gain the financial backing we needed to move forward.
Lang: Can you tell us about your business with some more background detail?
JW: We smoke our meats on all wood fire using our three Lang 108’s. We serve fresh raw and grilled NC oysters sourced from some of our best friends in Topsail Sound, N. Sea. Oyster Co. We also source fresh local ingredients and serve progressive takes on classic barbecue sides and fixins. We make “everything” in house except for our buns.
Lang: What were the pitfalls you didn’t expect when you went into business?
JW: The pandemic. It delayed us for over a year. We ran the business from a ghost kitchen in downtown Raleigh to survive.
Lang: What would you recommend to someone new getting in the business?
JW: Make sure you surround yourself with the right people.
Lang: When did you first purchase a Lang (What model and why)?
JW: A Lang 84 Deluxe back in December of 2019. We knew Lang had a great reputation and could turn around what we needed in the time we needed it, which they did.
Lang: Guess that worked out well since you have more Lang Smoker Cookers now?
JW: Yes, we run three Lang 108’s, burning all oak and hickory for brisket, butts, turkey, yardbird, ribs, bologna, and to incorporate smoke into other menu items including our N’ICEEs (slushees).
Lang: What features do you like best about Lang?
JW: The overall usability they offer. We really have these things dialed in and they are very easy to manage. Nothing you don’t need and everything you do!
Lang: What’s your take on Lang’s Reverse Flow process?
JW: I think it offers an overall more even cook on your racks. We don’t see much difference in outcome or cook times with the meat that is in different locations on the smoker. Once we are a few hours in, our temps even out across the board and it’s a smooth ride until we land!
Lang: What is your main goal as a chef?
JW: To create memories for people by way of food, beverage, and hospitality—an experience.
Lang: What are the favorite meals you like to prepare and why?
JW: Gotta be Brisket Birria Tacos. They are literally mind-blowing.
Lang: Are you in competition?
JW: No. I’ve never been a fan of competing. I like to cook for folks that come here to eat a meal at our table.
Lang: What are your thoughts on the BBQ community as a whole?
JW: I’ve learned that the BBQ community as a whole, is very tight knit and overall, pretty welcoming. I have noticed that some of the “new kids” have a little bit of a hard time establishing themselves, especially when it comes to trying to create their own style of barbecue/service model. All in all, we are extremely proud to be a part of the barbeque community.
Lang: What type of wood do you favor when cooking?
JW: Hard oak and hickory
Lang: Can you share a recipe with us?