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Historic barbecue open again

Businesses still making a go of it during pandemic

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Michael Bauer|Odessa American

Alvin Willis cuts meat Wednesday while working at Sam's Bar-B-Que.


After going through three months of being shut down due to the pandemic, Sam’s Bar-B-Que has since opened back up.

The restaurant, located on East Seventh Street just off Dixie Boulevard, opened back up on June 22 and owner Tiki Davis says it’s felt great to be back in business.

“It’s great for the community,” Davis said. “We want everyone to come out and it’s a part of Odessa. It’s a part of West Texas. Even though we don’t make much money, it’s given my employees a pay check. It’s a good feeling to come back.”

Sam’s Bar-B-Que has been around since 1981. The restaurant was started by Willie Hammond and Davis bought it about six years ago.

“The reason I bought Sam’s Bar-B-Que is that it’s a traditionally black business,” Davis said. “A lot of black businesses in Odessa were failing or dying off. I felt like it was a responsibility for me to buy the restaurant and to keep it going.”

Sam’s Bar-B-Que has been a staple in the Permian Basin since its opening.

A second location is in Midland but is in the process of being rebuilt after burning in a fire two years ago.

“I started out in Midland,” Davis said. “That restaurant burned down on Easter Sunday two years ago. Now we’re in litigation with the insurance, trying to get that restaurant rebuilt.”

Davis added that the restaurant business can be very tricky.

“The restaurant business is a very tough business,” Davis said. “Especially the mom and pop business. So, I really do need the support of the community and to not stop coming. The restaurant is built on the legs of the community. I just got into it as a hobby because I was making my money as an oil and gas engineer. We also built homes for the underprivileged. I got into as a hobby and then it turned into a thing of love.”

As Sam’s Bar-B-Que returns to business, Davis said they have been offering different specials.

“We’ve done an essential-workers, 10 percent off on certain days or over 65, 10 percent off for a combo meal,” Davis said. “We’re trying to offer specials to get people to come in.”

Catfish has been another special menu item.

“Friday is our catfish special,” Davis said. “A lot of times, people may not eat pork so we want to give them an option. It’s a big option for Catholics during lent.”

But another hot item is the combination dinner.

“You get two ribs, you get two pieces of chicken and maybe four pieces of sausage and brisket, potato salad and beans,” Davis said. “It’s a combo item. You get a taste of everything. Another hot item is our burgers. They are really good and our chopped beef sandwiches.”

Just like with everyone else, they’ve been staying up to code with social distancing guidelines.

“Basically, what we’ve been doing, our cooks have been wearing their masks,” Davis said. “When people come in, we try to sit them on different sides of the restaurant. We haven’t had a packed house sine reopening. We haven’t had any issues. We also have the drive thru that drums up business. We clean the rest rooms and wipe down everything with sanitizer to keep up with state regulations.”

Lilie Jones, one of the eight employees at the restaurant has made sure of that.

“We don’t want to be in a pandemic,” Jones said. “We want to make sure that everyone is safe and clean and that we comply with the city ordinance. We’ve been practicing social distancing here. every table is sanitized and making sure that the windows are cleaned. We don’t want to be a part of the problem. We want to be a part of the solution.”

Michael Bauer is a sports reporter at the Odessa American. He can be reached at mbauer@oaoa.com at 432-333-7772 or on Twitter @OAmichaelba.

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Michael Bauer|Odessa American

Alvin Willis cuts meat Wednesday while working at Sam's Bar-B-Que.