SHELTON, Wash. — You can find a lot of log trucks in Shelton, Washington.
But until Tom and Mo Beben arrived, you couldn't find any southern barbecue in this Northwest mill town. Tom came from South Carolina, Mo from Oklahoma. When the couple moved to Washington more than ten years ago, some friends invited them to a barbecue.
"And we show up and they've got hamburgers and hot dogs on a gas grill. And where we come from, barbecue is a totally different thing,” Tom laughed.
"They had a cookout,” Mo explained.
The duo made some real barbecue for their friends, and Smoking Mo’s evolved out of that. At first, it was just a walk-up window.
Now they run a booming restaurant in a bank building with a lot of history; it once burned to the ground.
A fitting place to serve meat flavored with nothing but salt, pepper, and smoke.
"The truth is the barbecue’s mostly him. I make everything else. I just make it all look good,” smiled Mo.
It's not all about the south. Freshly shucked oysters on the menu are a nod to their Northwest home, in a region where shellfish farms are abundant.
Everything from the brisket to the biscuits is scratch made. And everything Smoking Mo’s serves has an extra, secret ingredient: Love. The couple says the love between them and the love of their family helped launch this restaurant. Customers give that love right back by packing the place every day and ordering every bit of meat that comes out of Lucille, the restaurant’s smallish smoker (named for BB King's guitar).
There’s only one thing that occasionally threatens the harmony here. Barbecue sauce.
Mo: “I grew up in Oklahoma - red sauce and brisket. He grew up in South Carolina, mustard sauce and pork. We've been open ten years and we still have a..."
Tom: "There's a family divide."
The sauce standoff is a win for customers.
"We make five sauces here,” said Mo. “That's how marriage works for ten years. We compromise."
They may have figured out the secret to both love and barbecue at Smoking Mo’s. Always have plenty of each.
Smoking Mo’s was voted BEST BBQ in 2017's Best of Western Washington viewer's poll. 203 West Railroad Ave, Shelton Washington 98584, (360) 462-0163