Anna Routh Barzin

Big Birria Business

In Eat, September 2022 by Lauren KruchtenLeave a Comment

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Just over a year after opening his uberpopular Lawrence Barbecue at Boxyard RTP, Jake Wood (who previously helmed Plates Neighborhood Kitchen as executive chef) has announced his second restaurant (!).

An ode to the smoked brisket birria tacos that nearly broke the internet whenever Wood announced they were on the menu on Lawrence’s Instagram (and brought in throngs of people eager to get their hands on one, though usually sold out after only a couple of hours and thus “got out of hand,” says Wood), Leroy’s Tacos n Beer—anticipated to open in January 2023—will be situated just two doors down from the hip Q spot, and underneath his other Lawrence Food Co. Hospitality Group concept, Lagoon Bar. A taco and BBQ (and cocktail!) have down the road at Boxyard? Um, sold. 

In addition to Wood’s famed birria tacos—which he conceptualized via three or four different recipes from different regions in Mexico—Leroy’s small rotating menu will feature fun seasonal dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Expect chimichurri fried rice, roasty poblano cheese dip with fresh fried tortilla chips, stewed hominy, and “a really fun corn dog that’s kind of like street corn, except the vessel’s gonna be a corn dog as opposed to an ear of corn,” says Wood.

NC shrimp tacos and carne asada skirt steak tacos will be on the feature board more often than not, he adds, and the food will be complemented by a rotating selection of canned Mexican beers like Imperial, Pacifico, Tecate and Modelo—plus over-the-top micheladas, natch (spring for the Big Mich if you’re really feeling frisky!). 

“We’re not trying to overthink it; we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with tacos—clearly I’m a white dude,” says Wood. “There are folks within 5 miles of us cooking amazing tacos. We just wanna join; we’re not trying to compete with anybody. I just f*cking love tacos, and I wanna make them. I want folks to be able to come and get the birria tacos and not have to wait in line 30 minutes to be told it’s sold out.” (If it’s happened to you, you know how soul-crushing it is.)

Wood learned with Lawrence that a small menu works not only well for their setup at Boxyard, but for his team. “We’re able to pump an insane amount of volume through that place,” he says. “And that helps us pay our staff more and sustain the quality of life, which is most important because if [the staff] isn’t taken care of or can’t take care of themselves, we can’t as a team take care of anybody—our customers or anybody else.” And that includes family.

As a husband and father of two young children, Wood feels it’s really important that he doesn’t miss out on too much of his kids’ lives. “They grow so fast. I’m focused on something that’s, you know, supposed to benefit us—it’s supposed to put a roof over our heads, supposed to help them get into the college they want to get into when that time comes. So we’ve had to really balance it. And it’s been tough.”

Case in point, Lawrence Barbecue is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and the shop closes early on Tuesdays, giving the team two-and-a-half days off. Wood says his staff is also paid well above industry standards—“we’ve got a whole-house tip pool, from [Lagoon Bar] to the restaurant,” he adds. 

When Leroy’s opens, he’ll stick to the same schedule while staying focused on “doing the best we can for the customers who line up for us out there, and just kind of trying to continue to take care of ourselves.”

And even though the Lawrence Barbecue team moved fast with this first expansion, Wood says that “if we have to grow slower and a little bit more organically then that’s fine with us—we just want to make sure that it’s sustainable. Because the most important thing to me is that, with this vision, it remains a sustainable vision and business for many years to come.” @leroystacoshop 

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