Located on the corner of Austin Avenue and West 22nd Street, the restaurant often goes unnoticed, Shankle said. So when a customer walks in, he asks himself, “What can we do to keep them here and keep them coming back?”
Like most restaurants, the food and customer service are Shankle’s priorities. Serving up a variety of barbecue and Southern-style sides, Shankle pays meticulous attention to the type of meat he throws on his smoker and the ingredients he uses in his side dishes. However, the formula for his food won’t be found anywhere but in his head.
“I don’t have any recipes or anything written down,” Shankle said. “It’s all by touch and feel. The end result is just a little taste to see, but usually I’m pretty consistent. I think if I wrote it down, I’d mess it up.”
The menu at Hello Sweetie BBQ includes pulled pork, chicken, sausage and ribs. However, there’s one item that garners the most attention from Shankle and his customers.
“This is Texas,” he said. “It’s always the brisket.”
Shankle purchases his meat from local grocery stores so he has a chance to survey the meat rather than having to worry about getting subpar brisket from a large food vendor.
“You could get five or six briskets in a case but may only have two good ones and three bad ones full of fat,” he said. “I’m touching, feeling, bending and picking out which ones I want.”
Shankle puts as much effort into cooking the meat as he does selecting, he said. The process begins by trimming most of the fat off the brisket. He likes to keep a quarter inch of fat on the backside, protecting the meat and keeping it moist while also allowing the smoke to penetrate the center of the cut.
After applying his own spice rub, Shankle then places it in the smoker for around 12-13 hours. Shankle cooks the brisket overnight, frequently stopping by his place to ensure everything is going smoothly. After removing it from the smoker, it’s then wrapped in paper and foil and placed in the oven for another six hours or so.
“Brisket takes forever and a day to get it tender,” Shankle said. “You can cook it faster, but to get it where it’s falling apart, you have to cook it longer.”
Beyond his cooking, Shankle works to ensure every customer receives individual attention. It starts with greeting every customer by saying, “Hello sweetie.” The crew then caters to each customer’s needs and works to get food out quickly. If a guest stops short of an empty plate, Shankle will ask if can whip them up a substitute meal or dish—whether the customer is full or not.
“That’s just what we do,” he said. “We try to go above and beyond for the customer.”
What's special about it?
Over the years, Hello Sweetie BBQ owner Al Shankle has developed his own process for preparing brisket. It includes using a recipe he has never written down in the 11 years he has owned the Georgetown restaurant.
- Hand-selects his own cut
- Trims the brisket, leaving a quarter inch of fat
- Applies his own seasoning rub
- Places the brisket in the smoker for 12-13 hours
- Removes the brisket from the smoker and wraps it in paper and foil
- Places the brisket in the oven at a low temperature for around six hours
- Slices and serves
- 2200 S. Austin Ave., Ste. 101, Georgetown
- Hours: Tue.-Thu. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon.