ELKO — Silvery smoke pours out of an old-school smoker behind Silver Haze BBQ on Silver Street. In preparation for lunch and dinner service in mid-December, owner Kevin Babcock stokes the fire with applewood and checks tri-tip and ribs on the blackened belly of the metal cooker.
Carin residents Kevin and wife Italia opened the restaurant in October after a more-than yearlong stint catering and serving barbecue at events out of a food truck this summer. But Kevin’s affinity for delicious dishes goes even further back, having sprung from a love of food preparation as a child.
“I was always cooking, even when I was little,” Kevin says. “I finally got enough nerve to open a restaurant.”
Kevin credits his mother for showing him around a kitchen but says Italia encouraged him to pursue his dream.
“He just says that so I still come here on my days off,” Italia says, laughing as she rests on a barstool.
Italia is employed in the mining industry as a haul truck driver. When not working in the mines, Italia works in the restaurant helping manage their 10 employees, hostessing, waiting on tables and assisting in the kitchen.
“She’s always pushing me through it when I want to give up,” Kevin responds.
Italia adds: “I’m an optimist. I know he’s talented enough to pull it off.”
Not-so-subtle hints from their friends also put the fire under Kevin to become his own boss.
“Anytime I got invited to someone else’s barbecue, I would get handed a spatula,” Kevin says.
Now he wields his own spatulas in a commercial kitchen, serving up recipes of his creation including barbecue sauces and marinades, pork chili made daily, sandwiches, burgers and barbecue plates.
“I didn’t open a restaurant to serve frozen potatoes and [frozen] burgers,” Kevin says. “We wanted to bring fresh food” to Elko.
The fare features marinated and slow-smoked tri-tip, ribs seasoned with dry rub, Carolina-style pulled pork, sausages, 7-ounce burgers and more.
Complementing the entrees are sides such as a mountain of fries, coleslaw or cottage cheese, or classic go-to’s like macaroni and cheese, and salads, along with beverages from a full bar including 805 beer on tap. The couple still provides catering, and future offering will include brisket, smoked slowly under the silvery haze.
“We’ll always have love and care in our food,” Italia says. “If you put love into your food, it’s gotta be good.”