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D's Down Home Bar-B-Que hopes to build Stillwater legacy

In a town full of students missing home, there is a barbecue stand that takes pride in good home cooking, as if it’s cooked in your backyard.

The home cooking even comes with a guarantee. If a customer does not like it, the food stand will give a refund or cook something else for those who visit.

D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que on 823 W. 11th St. is a family-owned, family-operated food stand, or as the creator, Bobby Douglas, likes to call it, “outside eatery.” D’s is unlike any other barbecue joint because of its unique outside dining area, directly outside of Douglas’ home.

“We want to be a great barbecue business,” Douglas said. “I believe Stillwater needs one.”

Douglas and his wife, Joyce Douglas, bought the property off 11th and Washington streets, which had a barbecue restaurant on the corner. The property belonged to Joyce Douglas’ uncle, and in 1990, Douglas tore down the building on the lot to replace it with the D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que trailer.

“I’ve always wanted to open a barbecue business,” Douglas said. “I have been in the barbecue business for quite some time.”

Douglas originated his idea of the perfect barbecue business while growing up. He started making barbecue at 13 because the oldest sibling was allowed to stay home from church. When the rest of the family came home, he had to have dinner ready.

“I started experimenting cooking outside when I was 13,” Douglas said. “It developed over a period of 51 years.

“I could not teach someone in two weeks to cook my food, like corporate places do.”

Douglas has taught his son, RC Douglas, the craft of barbecue for 21 years.

“When I was learning as a kid, it was kind of like a chore to learn it,” RC Douglas said. “But it was fun, and it was something we could just do together.”

RC Douglas is also part owner of D’s, and he and his wife, Zanya Douglas, have helped since Sept. 6, 2017, when D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que officially opened.

The Douglas family takes pride in its barbecue not only because of its slow cooking process, but also the product is homegrown and not a moving product. Joyce Douglas even does the baking for D’s in her home.

There is no secret sauce, no secret seasoning and no secret ingredient D’s puts in its food. What makes D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que undeniably delicious is quite simple.

“We put love in it,” Douglas said. “Just love. I try to make sure that if I cook 100 slabs of ribs, you can’t tell the difference between the first slab, the 51st slab or the 100th slab.”

Other than great food, hospitality and personal conversations with customers is another secret to D’s success.

“I love meeting new people and the new customers,” Zanya Douglas said. “It makes it more enjoyable.”

D’s motto is, “Just like you cook it in your backyard,” and the experience is similar to a big family cookout one would experience at home. With three round picnic tables on the patio, customers can enjoy a home-cooked barbecue meal in the sunlight. The grills are next to the patio, so customers can smell the fresh, savory and one-of-a-kind cooking.

With a yard large enough to play tag and a view of the neighborhood across the street, D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que is nostalgic for anyone who grew up having cookouts in the summer in his or her backyard.

Rocky Nguyen, a former OSU student, tried D’s barbecue for the first time last year and said he has fallen in love with not only its food, but also the atmosphere.

“It does take me back to my own home,” Nguyen said. “It makes me feel like I’m at a party in someone’s backyard. There is nothing better than barbecue and hanging out outside with some friends.”

Nguyen had the sliced brisket sandwich with a side of baked beans his first time trying D’s, and that is the same meal he gets every time he visits.

“It’s too good,” Nguyen said. “Probably the best I’ve had. It’s worth it every time.”

The brisket happens to be D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que’s most popular item. Whether its sliced or chopped, customers love the brisket so much, sometimes D’s will nearly run out by the end of the day.

Don’t worry though, D’s has other options such as sliced pork loin, bologna, smoked sausage and ribs to keep the customers coming back. Customers can order meat by the pound, dinners that come with two 6-ounce sides or sandwiches that come with one 6-ounce side. Coleslaw, baked beans or potato salad are the side options.

“I love the chopped brisket, and the bologna is really good, too,” Zanya Douglas said. “RC likes the sausages.”

Customers can enjoy these specialty meats and sandwiches all year. Even though the dining area and kitchen are outside, customers can stop by D’s on Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. during all four seasons.

“If it’s too icy, we will close because we don’t want people to slip or anything,” Douglas said. “But not if it’s too cold; we are still open.”

During the winter months, D’s does not see as many customers as it would have compared with the summer, fall and spring months. To make up for the lack of business in December, January and February, RC Douglas said D’s tries to do more catering during the slow months.

D’s caters events such as banquets, luncheons and tailgates. D’s has not catered a wedding, but if it were to come up, Zanya Douglas said she would love to. D’s caters about 10 to 12 events a year, but RC Douglas said he is hoping D’s will get up to 20 catering jobs a year.

In July, it was announced D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que would be a concession stands partner with OSU. This affiliation allows students and fans to enjoy great barbecue at football and basketball home games, as well as wrestling matches.

“We also catered for an Oklahoma State football recruiting event once,” RC Douglas said. “We do a lot of the large tailgates, too.”

Andreas Denbow is the video coordinator for OSU’s men’s basketball team, and he is familiar with D’s. Denbow has heard fans praise the barbecue.

“I kind of have an allergy to any smoked foods, so I don’t really eat barbecue much,” Denbow said. “I have risked it for D’s, though.”

The Douglas family has more goals than increasing the number of catering tasks. Getting the word out around Stillwater about D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que is something RC and Bobby Douglas want to focus on this year.

“I’m a little biased, but I don’t believe you can find any barbecue better than we have here,” Douglas said. “We want to establish that people can come here and eat.”

This year, Douglas wants to repaint and buy some new umbrellas for shading on the patio. Because of Oklahoma’s 80 mph winds, Douglas said all the wood umbrellas broke last year.

“We didn’t take into account of the wind coming in,” Douglas said. “It was an act of being a novice in business. The past year and half has been trying.”

Because Douglas is retired, he is not required to live off the business he has created, but RC Douglas and Zanya Douglas depend on the business doing well. Before working full time at D’s, RC Douglas worked for Black Eagle Energy Services, laying pipelines throughout Colorado, and he said he would rather not go back to that lucrative position.

“There are some good and bad to the transition,” RC Douglas said. “I get a lot more family time, and I don’t have to spend a lot of time on the road.”

Being a family-owned and family-operated business means the business will be passed on through the generations. Douglas said after passing it on to his son, RC Douglas, he hopes to see RC pass the business on to his daughter and tradition will continue on for years.

“At other universities, they have Ma and Pa shops that have been there for 20, 30, 40 years,” Douglas said. “All we have here is Eskimo Joe’s.

“We want to establish something that when people come to town, they want to come down and try D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que.”

He has stayed faithful to bringing great barbecue to Stillwater, even when he was traveling to Tulsa for work before D’s officially opened. Starting in 1992, he used to cook out of his home, the home that sits right next to D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que, and call customers letting them know he was cooking on certain days.

“I kept a book with my customers in it,” Douglas said. “I called it consignment cooking. On the phone, my customers would tell me to cook them a slab of ribs or whatever. I only cooked to order.”

Douglas’ consignment cooking from home ended when D’s Down Home Bar-B-Que opened the outdoor trailer and patio in 2017, and he has no intentions of moving D’s location.

“In the future, we might go into a building next door,” Douglas said. “But this is going to be here forever. I want to build a legacy on this corner.”