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‘In Texas, brisket is king’—Burnt Ends BBQ Y Mas opens in Lord Culpeper Hotel | Business

Austin-style Tex-Mex cuisine is now on the menu at the historic Lord Culpeper Hotel.

The popular food truck, Burnt Ends BBQ, recently took the leap to open their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the circa 1933 Colonial Revival brick building at 401 S. Main St. It’s called Burnt Ends BBQ Y Mas—and more.

Like many entrepreneurial ideas in the past few years, the restaurant was a dream deferred.

“We looked at it right before COVID hit, a couple months before everything got shut down…and we just paused and now that things are back up and running we thought let’s give this a whirl,” said Maria Riojas, owner and pit master of the food enterprise she started with husband, Ronnie.

The couple is already known around these parts for their food truck that opened singly in 2015 along Brandy Road, and has been permanently situated since 2020 at Battlefield Ford along US Route 29.

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Burnt End BBQ has since added two smaller trailers for driving to special events at breweries and wineries, festivals, downtown events and for private parties, weddings, graduations, etc.

“There wasn’t hardly any food trucks in the area about seven years ago and so then we started getting invited to go to different events…we were taking the large trailer,” Riojas said. “We got our name out there and just became mobile, just every weekend we were out moving it.”

During COVID, the food truck business prospered, she said. With the pandemic ending, the Riojas are ready to expand to the new restaurant, building on a family tradition.

“My husband’s family ran Pio’s BBQ in Austin, Texas years back, had a special rub they used so we’ve taken on that rub,” Maria Riojas said.

The main distinction with Texas BBQ is everything is smoked dry, no sauce, she said.

“Just the rub and we also have a family recipe for the sauce,” Riojas said. “We make one kind of sauce and we offer it if you want it, definitely don’t need it, but we offer it, and specialize in brisket because in Texas brisket is king.”

Burnt Ends BBQ also offers made-fresh-daily pulled pork, chicken, pork ribs, beef ribs and at the restaurant, beef and chicken fajitas, Tex-Mex nachos with salsa and guacamole.

“We’re adding a Tex-Mex flair to our BBQ, and a full bar specializing in Margaritas,” said the pit master.

Maria didn’t meet Ronnie until after his days coming up at Pio’s BBQ, named for his father.

“He grew up in that background and it was always a dream of his to open up a restaurant,” Riojas said.

The couple moved with their two children in 2010 to Virginia for his corporate job. Ronnie still has his corporate job, but Maria gave hers up to run the food trucks and now the restaurant. Burnt Ends has 10 employees and it still has a desire to drive—the food trucks will remain open with the new restaurant.

The mobile life is fun, Maria Riojas said.

“We get to go to all these different events, meet all these different people from different areas and share our Texas style. We’ve made a lot of new friends,” she said.

Being located in the Lord Culpeper Hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is pretty neat, Riojas said.

“It’s nice to be a part of history and to enjoy all the background that comes along with that,” she said, mentioning rumors of paranormal activity in the building.

Renovations in the restaurant space, former home to Thai Culpeper, provided a little Texas BBQ flair, Riojas said. It has a cafeteria-style set-up and extended buffet into the kitchen so customers can walk in, she said.

“They can see us slicing the meat, making the fajitas and the salsa, they can see everything being prepared as they order they can watch it all happen so they’ll know exactly what they’re getting,” the restaurant owner said.

Burnt Ends BBQ Y Mas hosts its grand opening celebration this Saturday and Sunday.

“We are officially announcing we are open and hope to bring a crowd in now—now we’re ready for them,” Riojas said.

There will be margarita specials and original pit master, Pio, will be in town slicing brisket at the counter.

“Ronnie and Pio showed me everything, they taught me how to do the rub, the brisket, what kind of wood to use so I have taken over all that,” Maria Riojas said. “One day (we) will be in a position where Ronnie will join me, but for now it works for us well.”

Burnt Ends BBQ Y Mas fits well in foodie Culpeper, she added.

“It’s a different type of food, gives people a different experience,” Riojas said. “Now we have another option.”

Ronnie Riojas said they are feeling excited.

“Everyone is loving it and it’s fun and we love doing it. Life long dream!” he said.

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