Seth Glaser, Opie’s BBQ, Age 27
YOUNG GUN TEXAS PIT MASTERS
In Texas, the title of pit master is a revered and honored position. Many joints will not officially allow use of the name until the experience and efforts of a contestant prove they have the skills, passion, and consistency that it takes to earn the designation.
In this series we look at the next generation of pit masters; those under the age of 30.
For this second article, Seth Glaser of Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood, Texas is featured
9504 Texas 71
Spicewood, TX 78669
Opie’s BBQ, located west of Austin in Spicewood, Texas, is a gem of the BBQ world. Opie’s blends West Texas style BBQ (Mesquite wood, warming pit displaying all meats when you order) and Central Texas style BBQ (indirect smoking) the result is great food housed in a large air conditioned building with ample seating. In addition to the meats, save room for the tater tot casserole, spicy creamed corn, and an array of desserts. Pinto beans are always free and delicious butter beans are available on Fridays and Sundays. Lines are short but they may sell out of certain meats, if you arrive after 4pm the choices may be limited if business has been brisk. Every time I’ve visited I’ve had great BBQ and I highly recommend a visit.
Opie’s is best experienced as part of a hill country getaway. Lake Travis, Krause Springs, and Hamilton pool offer water recreation nearby, and Marble Falls is a short drive northwest of Spicewood. The most direct route to Opie’s is via State Highway 71 from South Austin. If on a motorcycle or driving a sporty car or convertible, take FM 1431 out of Northwest Austin for a meandering but great ride into Marble Falls first. If you have an afternoon to spare, from Marble Falls continue Northwest onto State Park road 4 for one of the best motorcycle roads in Texas. A stop at Longhorn Caverns state park can be a nice respite from the sun and heat of a hot Texas day, and a stopping for a few scenic pictures as you ride or drive through Inks Lake state park before catching a hill country sunset make for a perfect Texas Hill country day.
Seth Glaser, son-in-law of owners Todd and Kristin Ashmore, was promoted to head pitmaster this year and is one of Texas’ BBQ Young Guns: Pitmasters under thirty years old.
I spoke with Kristin Ashmore and young pit master Seth Glaser.
Bryan: Opie’s started in a smaller building. When did this large one open?
Kristin Ashmore: Eight years ago, in August, I believe the 14th. We were at the other location since ‘99.
Bryan: What got Todd and yourself into the barbecue business?
Kristin Ashmore: Me and Todd used to drive around on the weekends and go eat barbecue. We owned the building and property up here so we decided to take the end of that building and open up a little barbecue joint.
Bryan: How was it at first?
Kristin Ashmore: When you initially open you get the locals coming to check you out. We did ok, but we only had six or seven picnic tables. It seemed busy all the time. Then we outgrew it.
Bryan: Was Seth sort of a natural at the pits?
Kristin Ashmore: You know, he was. The first time he did it by himself, I brought him in because he just needed a part time job while going to school. I don’t think he had any intentions of being a pit master. The first time my head pitmaster couldn’t cook and Seth took over I was really concerned about how everything was going to turn out. Everything turned out perfect, I knew then that this guy could do it.
I’m super excited about Seth. He takes real pride in what he’s doing. He loves doing it. He’s trying to find new techniques and meats to cook.
Bryan: What do you see in the future for Opie’s?
Kristin Ashmore: We’re going to talk to someone about opening up in Bastrop. He owns some land next to the Bucc-ees and he wants to do something out there.
Bryan: Y’all have the rock and roll themed T-shirts, how did that come about?
Kristin Ashmore: The guy that designs the shirts, we’re really good friends. We were 80’s kids. We were both kind of headbangers. We just decided to come up with a music theme.
Bryan: Hello Seth, what’s your age?
Seth Glaser: 27 years old
Bryan: Where did you grow up?
Seth Glaser: I grew up in Fayetteville, between here and Houston.
We moved here in middle school. For BBQ we went to Inman’s, that was the main place in Marble Falls. I never ventured out much more than that.
I’ve cooked a little bit all my life. I married Courtney, the owner’s daughter, I was going to school driving back and forth to san marcos the last couple of years going for a degree in water resources and school was getting into a different direction than I wanted to go. They had been working with me on my schedule, last spring semester I quit and started doing this full time. I really enjoy it.
Bryan: When did you meet your wife Courtney?
Seth Glaser: In high school. She went off to school in Galveston. I took some classes at ACC Marble Falls, Central Texas College and went as far as I could there then I went off to San Marcos. I decided that I wasn’t going to love what they were teaching me. I wasn’t going to continue wasting time and money on something I don’t love.
Bryan: Where do you live now?
Seth Glaser: I live on the west side of Marble Falls, about twenty five miles from here on a few acres. Twenty five miles; twenty five minutes. We’ve actually put in an offer on a house this morning, it’s maybe a mile east of the Pedernales; a little place on three acres.
Bryan: What was your first experience with barbecue?
Seth Glaser: Cooking in the backyard with my dad growing up, my dad and my brother; lots of rib, sausage, a little bit of everything. We didn’t cook many briskets.
Bryan: What kind of wood?
Seth Glaser: We usually used Mesquite and Pecan
Bryan: When did you start running the pits here?
Seth Glaser: About six months after I started here I started to work the pits. When I started there were two others in front of me. I moved up to middle after one moved on. Around February of this year I moved up to the lead pitmaster. [3 or 4 years ago]
Bryan: How was it learning to cook all of the meat?
Seth Glaser: They started me out seasoning the meats. Next I started taking of the easy stuff, working up to brisket. I watched the others cook and learned one by one.
Bryan: How did you learn to tell when the brisket was ready?
Seth Glaser: At first I was shown by a couple people in front of me to stick a fork in the brisket. If it turns easy then it was done. I go more by feel now; I pick up every one and feel it, that’s how I know it’s done. Over time I’ve tested out many different kinds of gloves, trying not to burn my hands, but I prefer the thin rubber gloves. I just have to burn my hand, I guess.
Bryan: Not every brisket is the same, even though you might have the same fire and temperature.
Seth Glaser: Yeah some will run longer than others. This morning I took off some at 7:30am or so, and some others weren’t done until 11. Sometimes you have one that’s 12 pounds and it’s done and hour after one that’s only 8 pounds. You don’t turn up the fire.
One thing is our thermometer on our pit has been broke for several months. It’s actually a really good thing I think. We’ve kind of figured out, it says 50 degrees on there, and we move it not far above that. That’s where we’re cooking at night. Obviously that’s not what it’s really at, but it’s a good thing because you’re not focused on a specific temperature. You turn it up a little more one night, and a little lower the next, depending on the weather and it works out perfectly. By doing it that way it makes me feel like I could go up to any pit and just know by feeling how hot the fire is, I know if its the right temperature.
Bryan: What is your schedule now?
Seth Glaser: It changes a little bit. I’ve been working 11 days in a row but usually I’m off Mondays and Tuesdays.
Bryan: What’s a weekend day like? I saw briskets going on for tomorrow at around four o’clock
Seth Glaser: Usually I’ll try to get out of here at 3:30 or 4 unless they’re busy and then I’ll stay as long as they need me.
This morning I got here right after 6am, checked on the briskets, started the other fires, got everything going and started seasoning more food for later today.
Bryan: Briskets cook through the night here. What’s the schedule of the other meat?
Seth Glaser: Pork ribs go on, then beef ribs; those go one early before the sun comes up. Kristin does that. I’ll come in and check on that. Then we throw on chickens, turkey, pork loin, pork chops, and ham.
Bryan: Opie’s cooks with mesquite like many west Texas joints. Last time we talked you said it’s a mix of seasoned and a little fresher. How do you come up with the ratio?
Seth Glaser: I feel it, depending on the weight really. The weight and look.
Bryan: Is there anything you’ve added or tweaked to the rubs or recipes?
Seth Glaser: I messed with the rub a little bit, adding more or less of this and that. I’m trying to improve every day, I just want to be better than I was yesterday.
Bryan: Any particular meat that you like to cook more than any other?
Seth Glaser: There is none that I don’t like to cook, really, I’m getting more and more into brisket, even if I don’t eat it every day. I love seeing the outcome of it every day; how it looks. It’s nice to get here, open the doors, and say “It’s going to be real good, y’all” It’s good when the customers come and say it was great. That’s what makes it nice to come to work every day. I like to go talk to people; for them to tell me “good job”, that makes it all worth it.
Bryan: Opie’s gets a lot of weekend traffic being based outside of Austin, what’s it like on a Saturday here?
Seth Glaser: It’s crazy. After I cook as much as I can for the first round I’ll start seasoning more. After that first round comes offs its really a judgment call each day. I wish we’d go to Vegas on good days, and not on others. Yesterday we had a bunch of food and there was too much. Some days we don’t have enough.
Bryan: There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to the flow of the customers.
Seth Glaser: Yeah. We might see rain in the forecast and we back off a little bit, but then get real busy. It could be a nice 70 degree day with sun shining and we get slow, you never know.
Bryan: You have more than just the lunch rush, is that hard to manage?
Seth Glaser: One of the hardest things that we have to do here as a whole operation is that we stay open throughout the day. If we cooked just once a day and sold out then we wouldn’t have to adjust so much or throw away meat. There’s not many restaurants out here so we like to give people an option in the evening, even if that means throwing away some stuff sometimes. At least we’re making the customers happy.
I have to run between seasoning meat, checking on food, bringing it from the outside pits to the warming pit. It would be nice to be out in the dining room a little more and to interact with the customers more than I get to.
Bryan: Do you know why the butter beans are only on Fridays or Sundays?
Seth Glaser: They just take a whole bunch of work to cook, and they can only make two pots a day. That’s why there is the whole issue with not allowing them to be taken to go.
Kristin Ashmore: They take a whole lot of work. Each pot takes six hours and we can only do two. Initially it was just butter bean Friday. People asked to please do them on the weekend so I gave in and started doing them on Sunday for the church crowd.
Bryan: There are a few joints that do free pinto beans like Opie’s where they are free every day. Why give them away?
Seth Glaser: All that stuff in the middle (the condiment bar) is just something, as I grew up, it just came with your meal. The bread and beans were normal.
Bryan: Tell me about the pits you’re cooking on
Seth Glaser: We have the old school indirect pit and we have two rotisserie Oylers. On the old school pit we cook sausage, pork loin, pork chops, and sometimes I’ll throw some ribs on there when we don’t have room on the rotisserie. We only use one rotisserie most of the time unless the briskets aren’t done. I really like the Oylers because you can fit so much food on them. I haven’t cooked on any of the big Klose pits or any others. I’d like to check them out but we’re good now. We might get another pit before long. Today, while the briskets were still going I could have had other meat going one but I can’t turn up the fire on the briskets so the other meat would cook slow.
Bryan: Any day of the week you enjoy working more than others?
Seth Glaser: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I wish it was that busy every day, all day.
Bryan: Speaking of all day, Opie’s is open as late as 6 or 7 if the food doesn’t run out. How hard is it to manage keeping the meat fresh all day?
Seth Glaser: We try to stay open ‘till 7 but we’re not a fast food place, it takes hours to cook the meats. Some people get mad when we run out but some understand. You’ll always have those that come in (when the brisket is sold out) and ask “when is your next brisket ready” and they look funny when we say “tomorrow”.
Bryan: If you always have all the meats ready to eat, you’d have to throw away some unused throughout the day.
Seth Glaser: I wish we’d know how much to cook, but it’s hard. LIke right now at 4 there is a line but you never know because its a drive from Austin. People know that sometimes we run out so that alters their decision on whether to make the drive.
Bryan: Sometimes they get upset when they don’t understand
Seth Glaser: We’ve had a couple of reviews on the internet that are one or two stars and they didn’t even eat here. The complaint was that we weren’t open when they got here.
Bryan: Where do you see Opie’s in, say, five years?
Seth Glaser: That’s not up to me. (laughs) If we could, at some point Courtney and I would like to go open another one. Anywhere, really. We wouldn’t mind going to another country, or another state.
For this location, they just built a new hospital ten miles down the road west of here and that’s going to bring more people out. Bee Caves has expanded practically out to here already it’ll just get busier and busier.
Bryan: You and Courtney were at the Red Dirt Fest, I heard there were problems?
Seth Glaser: Yeah our our mobile pit broke an axle. We almost didn’t go. Courtney and I loaded up briskets, I can’t remember, around five or five thirty in the morning. We told them (Red Dirt) we were going so we were going to keep our word. We drove like hell and made it up there. It was a great festival with the cool music afterwards, it was one big party all day long.
Bryan: I grew up in Austin, and I remember when the Pedernales ran with water. Now I see how dry it is when I come out here.
Seth Glaser: It seems like just a few years, maybe four or five when I was driving a boat down there, and now there’s nothing. We have a well down the road and it used to be only twenty or thirty feet deep. We’ve had to drill deeper since then. We’re kind of on the same water that Krause springs is on. They’re still pumping out plenty of water and it’s not a big concern right now. Further in Spicewood they have been trucking in water. I think by the time it could be (a problem) that LCRA is going to have water out here.
Bryan: Opie’s has been creating some unique rock and roll themed shirt. What is your favorite?
Seth Glaser: The “I was made for loving Que”; the KISS one is pretty sweet. I’ve always liked the state of Texas, so the regular one with Texas on it is also one of my favorites. I probably have twenty of those at home.
Bryan: Anything else you’d like to say?
Seth Glaser: I’d like to say our whole staff is dedicated to our customers as much as we can be. I couldn’t do it without all our employees. It’s a big team effort. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. Believe it or not I like working with my in laws and my wife every day. A big thing I enjoy about working here is that our son Peyton goes to school a half a mile down the street so we get to bring him up here at work for an hour or two before school, then drop him off at school.
Bryan: Does he get to eat barbecue; does he like it?
Seth Glaser: He loves it.
Bryan: What’s his favorite?
Seth Glaser: He changes from month to month. A couple of days ago he was all about ribs. He always likes brisket and turkey. He even likes the babybacks. We have older people who come in here and say they’re way too spicy but my six year old son loves them. They do have a kick but they’re not overwhelming. I guess there are some people more sensitive than others.