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    Some of O.C.’s best Texas-style barbecue can be found inside this liquor store
    • October 20, 2023

    Located inside a nondescript liquor store just off the 73 at the border of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, Jeff Hayes spends his Saturdays smoking and serving slow-cooked Central Texas-style barbecue from the shop’s corner deli section.

    “Everybody that comes here really enjoys it,” says Hayes, founder and pitmaster of JW Hayes BBQ. “We don’t have a lot of good barbecue in Orange County, so what I wanted to do was try to stimulate some excitement for barbecue.”

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    Hayes started learning the ins-and-outs of proper barbecue in 2013. Soon thereafter, he entered competitions to show off his skills, which also helped him hone his craft. But the rigors of competitive cooking had him yearning to open up his own place where he could both connect with customers and focus more on his culinary prowess minus the competitive angle.

    “I ended up getting burned out on doing competitions and had a hankering to get my own commercial smoker,” he says. After putting in an order request for the highly sought-after Moberg Smoker, which is prized among pitmasters in Texas and beyond, he received two 500-gallon smokers from the Texas-based manufacturer. Since February of this year, Hayes, along with the assistance of his son, Kyle Hayes, and family friend Brayden Burke, have worked at Minute King Deli serving brisket, chicken, ribs and more from the liquor store’s deli counter.

    “We do it all on-site too with the smokers just outside the back of the store,” he says.

    The pared-down menu keeps it simple: beef brisket, pork ribs, pork butt pulled pork, turkey, and chicken are regularly featured each week, with specials like BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, brisket burgers and tri tip making frequent appearances. Smoked mac and cheese, smoked pinto beans with jalapeños, and coleslaw sides are also available.

    A tri-tip beef roast is sliced for a customer on Saturday, October 14, 2023. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

    Hayes says he draws inspiration primarily from Central Texas style barbecue, but also from two lauded spots here in Southern California — Moo’s Craft Barbecue in Los Angeles and Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano, two acclaimed barbecue purveyors that also started out underground and gained traction by word of mouth.

    A contractor by day, which has been his full-time job for the past 37 years, Hayes says he hopes to go full-time in the next two to three years. “I also want to add a Sunday service at some point in the near future,” he says.

    Until his vision of a brick-and-mortar space become a reality, barbecue fans can line up at JW Hayes BBQ on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Find it: JW Hayes BBQ at Minute King Market, 3530 Irvine Ave. (at Bristol St.), Newport Beach;

    Some of OC’s best bbq can be found inside The Minute King liquor store where Jeff Hayes prepares Texas-style BBQ in Newport Beach. Customer Chante Lasane picks up a bunch of pork ribs and some beef brisket on Saturday, October 14, 2023. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

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    ​ Orange County Register