Opening up a business—let alone, an eatery—in the middle of a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. But for John Guzman and Shannon Fuller, they knew it was their calling. Pop’s Southern BBQ truck, located at Bunk + Brew’s micro food cart lot in Bend, is committed to serving authentic, Sunday afternoon cookout-style barbecue five days a week. After opening in November of 2020, the ‘Mom and Pop’ pair are coming together in the name of family.
Momma Bear, Poppa Bear, and Baby Bear
Pop’s started out as an idea between Guzman and Fuller, who are parents to son Bear (Barrett). However, they’re not your “traditional” family. Guzman and Fuller have cultivated a strong co-parenting relationship, which led them to become business partners.
In fact, the modern family dynamic has been the driving force behind Pop’s BBQ launch. “That foundation has given us the confidence to launch a business together. “Pop’s has been such a great way for the three of us to work together,” Guzman reflects.
The King of Brisket
The food cart features slow-cooked and smoked barbecue delights such as pulled pork, ribs, chicken wings, and the Pops’ specialty, brisket. Most of their meats are smoked for a minimum of 12 hours, while chicken and turkey are brined for at least 36 hours prior to hitting the grill.
Guzman is no stranger to brisket—he’s spent more than 20 years perfecting his brisket game. He considers his style of barbecuing to be an art form by relying on intuition. “Every piece of meat is different. That affects how much to trim, how long to smoke, how hot [to smoke them]. He does everything by feel,” Fuller gushes. And it’s no coincidence that Guzman chose barbecue as his cuisine of choice. His Texas roots are what influenced Pops’ menu. “Texas pride more than anything fueled his fire. It took him years to perfect his BBQ style,” Fuller shares.
Guzman has been honing his barbecuing skills for more than two decades, with 15 of those years spent working as a professional chef. Fuller brings over 10 years of front-of-house experience to the cart, creating a synergy with the pair’s more than 30 years of combined foodservice experience.
Grandma’s Stamp of Approval
Sunday-style barbecue wouldn’t be complete without all of the comforting fixings and side dishes. Traditional potato salad graces their simplistic menu, along with roasted poblano slaw and house-made potato chips. And, while it goes without saying, no meal would be complete without a taste of their Oreo-crusted double chocolate pie.
If a plate of smoked meats and sides isn’t what you’re seeking, then the “Chachos” are a must-order. Made-daily potato chips are smothered in Pops’ famous brisket chili and topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and green onions. This riff on nachos pairs perfectly with a side of smoked and flash-fried chicken wings, made to order.
Barbecue and Beer
What could go better with a plate of barbecue than a frosty craft beer? As a part of the Bunk + Brew family, Pop’s is located just steps away from Old-Ironworks Taps. The rustic beer cart was part of the allure to joining Bunk + Brew’s carefully curated team of food carts, which also includes Alebrije Oaxaca taco cart.
“The concept of the Bunk + Brew is what initially drew us in. Both of us enjoy the ‘traveler’ lifestyle and wanted to share our food with folks from all over,” Fuller explains. “After meeting Frankie, Jay, and the crew, we knew we’d fit right in! Plus Alebrije has some of the best food in the state—who wouldn’t want taco’s, BBQ, and beer every day?”
Guzman and Fuller conceptualized Pop’s Southern BBQ with family in mind. Through a deeply developed friendship, the two look forward to teaching their son about work ethic through their example. “We started this business as a way to come together for our son. We wanted to show him that hard work, passion, and true grit will get him anywhere he needs to go in life. Bear is the reason for every single thing we do,” Fuller shares. “We get the chance to show our son where food comes from, how to safely prepare and serve, as well as how to handle the challenges of small business ownership.”
The pair look forward to the future of their budding entrepreneurial joint venture. Pop’s is excited to offer special event catering within Central Oregon along with serving its community, friends passing through, and barbecue connoisseurs.