Texas and barbecue go together synonymously, and Richard Funk is proof of that. After his wife Suzanne introduced him to charcoal grilling, he became passionate about cooking the perfect brisket. He eventually moved on to smoking and barbecuing, which presented more of a challenge. His love for barbecuing continued to grow until it became his main focus. Now, years later, Funk has gone from cooking his first brisket to owning and operating a full-scale restaurant, Desert Oak Barbecue.
Before the restaurant, Funk and his wife opened a food truck, which soon found a home at the Cowtown Boots event property. “We started in 2015 as a little food truck — that was the easiest way to get started — although it wasn’t easy because it was a lot of work,” Funk says.
Before Funk knew it, Desert Oak Barbecue moved into its first restaurant in the Summer of 2017, where it remained for five years. “We outgrew that place and came back to Cowtown Boots — where we started — and we have a much larger space now,” he says. “We have about 7,500 square feet, and we don’t run out of tables anymore. And we try not to run out of food.”
At Desert Oak Barbecue, the key to their mouth-watering dishes is timing. Every morning at 3 a.m., the pit crew ignites the pits and starts cooking the brisket and ribs. The brisket requires around 18 hours of cooking, so the pit crew prepares each brisket a day before serving. Desert Oak Barbecue receives a large number of briskets, which are stored in their walk-in refrigerator until they are ready to be trimmed. While the food cooks on the smoker, the crew prepares the next round of briskets by seasoning and trimming them, which are then stored for the following day. The fat is separated from the meat and kept aside to make sausage.
While Funk didn’t grow up in El Paso, it didn’t take long for him to make El Paso his home. Funk equates his success to the support of his family and the El Paso community, “I enjoy serving the people of El Paso because even just living here, it’s a warm and friendly culture,” he says.
Desert Oak Barbecue isn’t only a local favorite but has also had plenty of national attention. The restaurant was featured in 2019 on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” before landing a spot on the Texas Monthly Top 50 barbecue list in 2022. If you have yet to try Desert Oak Barbecue, they invite you to “come on down, and we’ll give you a tour, explain the menu, walk you through it, and give you a really good experience,” Funk says.