Father, Son Sell Barbecue on the Go in Iowa Park

Jim Stevens (right) and his son, Jeremiah, opened their Iowa Park barbecue business with a custom-made mobile kitchen in August.

Jim Stevens (right) and his son, Jeremiah, opened their Iowa Park barbecue business with a custom-made mobile kitchen in August.

By Lara K. Richards

Witchita Falls, TX – Jim and Jeremiah Stevens are on the move with their new barbecue venture.

The father-and-son combo opened Rafter J Texas BBQ and Cajun Eats in August in an unconventional location — a mobile kitchen trailer.

On Tuesday mornings, they bring the trailer onto a lot on West Highway near downtown Iowa Park.

Lindsey Stevens dishes up a serving of beans inside the Rafter J Texas BBQ and Cajun Eats mobile kitchen in Iowa Park. Her husband Jeremiah Stevens and father-in-law, Jim Stevens, started the business late last summer – photo Torin Halsey/Times Record News

Jim Stevens said he wanted to start the business so he and his wife, Judy, could spend more time in Iowa Park with their family.

“Me and my wife are both insurance adjusters. We’ve been doing it for eight years, and we’re gone all the time,” he said. “I told her it was time that we find something else to do.”

Bill Asher, a regular customer of Rafter J Texas BBQ and Cajun Eats, gets his order from owner Jim Stevens in the custom mobile kitchen he and his son operate along Business Highway 287 in Iowa Park. PHOTOS BY Torin Halsey/Times Record News

Working claims took them all across the U.S. for years at a time, he said.

“One time, we left in June 2004 and didn’t come back to Iowa Park until January 2007. We missed too much, like my grandkids growing up,” he said.

A drive home from Boston was the inspiration for the venture, he said.

The couple passed through New York City, home to countless mobile food trucks and street vendors.

Stevens was inspired, he said. When he got back to Texas, he visited with his son, Jeremiah, who had previously run a restaurant in Iowa Park.

Rafter J Texas BBQ and Cajun Eats was born.

Stevens said they thought a mobile kitchen would be the perfect way to start the family business.

They located a vendor in Mississippi that custom-built their trailer, outfitted for their particular cooking needs.

Going the mobile kitchen route made sense given the current economic uncertainty nationwide, Stevens said.

“With the economy the way it is, we didn’t want to sink $400,000 into a building for a restaurant,” he said.

Opening a storefront, though, is hopefully in their near future, Stevens said.

“We really want to open a full-blown restaurant. It’d be nice to have indoor dining,” he said. “When it gets cold, business is cut in half because people don’t like to be out in the cold.”

Rafter J sells typical barbecue joint favorites, like chopped beef sandwiches, smoked sausage and meat by the pound, with sides ranging from corn on the cob to potato salad to beans and coleslaw.

Other dishes include Southern treats such as pulled pork sandwiches and sweet potato fries, as well as Cajun specialties like crawfish tails and Cajun shrimp.

The inspiration for the name Rafter J can be traced to Stevens’ father, who was a rancher, he said.

“My dad’s cattle brand was the rafter with the letter J. Jeremiah thought it would be a good idea to use dad’s brand,” he said.

Rafter J Texas BBQ and Cajun Eats is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The business is located at 903 West Highway on Business U.S. 287 in Iowa Park.

For more information, call 940-782-0979.