Anyone in the Yakima Valley who knows anything about good barbecue has likely heard of Slow Poke’s Grill & Smoke.
But until recently, the only way you could sample Slow Poke’s meats and sides was to catch owners Dan Gamache and Brandon Perry at select catering events or nationally sanctioned barbecue competitions.
That all changed in January when Gamache, Perry and their wives assumed ownership of the Red Rooster Bar & Grill in Selah. Now, Slow Poke’s fans can order from their menu six days a week — and chase it down with a cold beer or three.
“We’ve been kicking around the idea for a couple years, but it never came together until now,” said Gamache, a Selah native who previously worked as an electrical engineer. “But we found out back in August that this place was for sale, so we did our due diligence and made it happen. We figured this was as good a spot as any.”
Late last year, Gamache and Perry ironed out all of the details with city officials and former owner Gene Thorp, who was looking to retire. They also spent plenty of time at the bar, getting to know the regulars and letting people know about the ownership transition.
The Red Rooster, 519 S. First St., has maintained the same neighborhood bar appeal that has made it a local favorite for decades. The only difference now is that customers can order from an award-winning barbecue menu.
“We’re still a blue collar, working man’s bar, but with a lot better food,” Gamache said. “We see a lot of the same old faces, but there are lots of new faces, too.”
“The regulars have been very welcoming to the new people coming in for the food, and that has been great for business,” added Gamache’s wife, Randi, a former restaurant server who now works at the Red Rooster full time.
Perry and his wife, Mary, are also involved in all of the big business decisions, but they continue to maintain their full-time positions — Brandon as a mental health counselor and Mary as a massage therapist. Brandon also holds a biochemistry degree from Central Washington University and is gearing up to go to medical school.
Over the next few months, the new owners plan to take advantage of the Selah Downtown Association’s Façade Improvement Grant, upgrade the outdoor seating area, hire additional help and touch up the restaurant’s interior. Over the long-term, they will look into purchasing the property and maybe even start a barbecue cooking school.
Needless to say, neither couple has much free time these days.
“It would be nice to get to the point where we can take a day off, but for now, we have to keep pushing,” said Brandon Perry, a former Marine.
While the Perrys and Gamaches have been working nonstop seven days a week since taking over Jan. 1, all of their hard work appears to be paying off.
“We are ahead of every milestone we set for ourselves,” Perry said, “but we have a number of long-term goals and we can’t rest on our laurels.”
Practice makes perfect
Dan Gamache and Brandon Perry were former band mates who first started experimenting with barbecue recipes and cooking techniques in 2008.
Their first competition was that summer at the Moxee Hops Festival, and after perfecting their rubs and sauces for a few years, they earned a place on the national barbecue competition circuit.
Their most notable accomplishment came in 2017, when they were invited to the Jack Daniel’s World Championships in Lynchburg, Tenn. Slow Poke’s finished in the middle of the pack, but winning wasn’t necessarily the point.
“You win just by being invited,” Gamache said.
The two barbecue masters entered six competitions that year, taking home a number of trophies and ribbons. But their success didn’t happen overnight.
“When we first started on the pro circuit, we got our butts kicked,” Gamache said. “But once we got our rubs and sauces down, we started winning.”
“Comment cards from the judges really helped,” Perry added. “We’re always tweaking things, but now we’ve got it down to a pretty solid method.”
Gamache and Perry describe their barbecue as a cross between St. Louis and Memphis styles. Gamache said their signature flavor is a “little salty, a little sweet, a little vinegar and a little heat.”
“It hits all the senses,” he said. “And if it impresses the judges, it must be pretty good.”
They specialize in all manner of barbecue cooking, but their most popular item is the ribs — “a gateway drug,” according to Gamache. They also serve homemade barbecue beans, chili, potato salad, coleslaw and more.
After years of perfecting their craft, the owners of Slow Poke’s Grill & Smoke are proud to deliver their creations to the good people of Selah.
“We’re taking what we do for competitions and making it in our kitchen,” Gamache said. “And so far, we haven’t heard a single complaint.”