A transformation is underway at The Backyard Smokehouse on Fleur De Lis Boulevard in Cypress. It has been about a year and a half since Mark McShaffry, owner of the Backyard Grill, took over the space with the intention of mainly using it for catering, but new changes have brought in a bakery, counter service, beers on tap and an upcoming meat market.

McShaffry said the restaurant picked up some customers in its first year, but it was not performing at the level he thought it could.

"We realized that there wasn't really anything separating us from anybody else," he said. "We were just another restaurant."

That is when McShaffry started talking with John Homrighausen, who formerly ran Ranch Bakery on Barker Cypress Road, about reopening the bakery in his restaurant.

It wasn't long after Homrighausen closed down Ranch Bakery that he started getting phone calls and emails from customers telling him how much he and his pastries would be missed—especially the bakery's iconic Pie Fries—he said.

"We had a passionate cult following [at our old location], but we didn't have enough bread and butter customers to keep the door open and cover our overhead," Homrighausen said. "At the Smokehouse, our traffic is pretty much double where we were before. We are able to reach a broader market."

Ranch Bakery officially started serving out of the Backyard Smokehouse on Feb. 1. The introduction of the bakery was one of several moves taken to turn the business from a typical restaurant into what the owners describe as a "country store."

"Bringing the bakery in was a part of a larger remodeling of the place," Homrighausen said. "We kind of went for the country store theme, and it made sense to have a scratch bakery with unique and oversized items—half-pound cinnamon rolls, giant 6-inch cookies. It seemed to really fit."

On top of bringing in the bakery, McShaffry also started doing counter service, installed four beer taps and a keg box, and added family barbecue packs to the menu. That final piece of the transformation involves starting a meat market in the restaurant.

"I always wanted to do a smoke specialty meat section where we have smoked briskets ready to go, along with Texas lobsters, stuffed chickens, stuff like that," McShaffry said.

The Smokehouse also tweaked aspects of its actual barbecue process, including the seasoning, temperature and timing on how the meats are cooked, McShaffry said.

"It's 1,000 times better now," he said. "I don't think the pit ever turned off last week. We smoke the briskets every night so they're ready to go for lunch the next day. Then we put the next batch in for the next day."

Several weeks into the changes, McShaffry said business has picked up, both at the counter and with catering jobs. Even with the introduction of counter service, catering will continue to play a significant part of running the business moving forward, he said.

Homrighausen is also in the process of expanding the bakery and its menu and is even looking into the possibility of more locations around Houston.

"We hired a baker to come in and help us get our cupcake program up and going," he said. "We're looking to try out some 'manly' cupcakes, made with beer, whiskey and pretzels. That will probably be up in a couple weeks."

The Backyard Smokehouse

13802 Fleur de Lis Blvd.

Cypress 281-469-3485