Ash escapes from the smoker as Adam Ferguson opens a small metal door to add wood to the fire that will cook barbecue, brisket, and ribs until the meat falls of the bones. The meats cook for up to 22 hours a day, some wrapped in foil to hold in flavor while others cook on the open grill.
Adam opened Pop's BBQ eight years ago after his wife's grandfather – known as Pops – gifted him the smoker. The restaurant sits at the base of the hills flanking Highway 801 in Morehead and operates from March to November.
Adam says he served 27,000 pounds of Boston butts for pulled pork, 16,500 pounds of brisket, and 2,550 slabs of ribs this year. As he preps for one of the last all-you-can-eat catfish specials a week before Pop's closes for the season, he's filled with a "mix of emotions."
"Theres always a certain amount of nervousness," he says. "Having staff, and if they'll find a job and not come back, but most come back. That gives me some type of hope."
He, his wife, and their two sons just moved into a new house and they'll have a chance to settle in without juggling the same hectic restaurant schedule.
The team rushes around the kitchen where tapping silverware and sizzling oil in the fryer are momentarily interrupted by the announcement of a new order ticket as it's added to the lineup. Locals and tourists from all over come to enjoy a brisket reuben, catfish filet, smoked pulled pork platter, or a deep fried mini apple pie.
"Everything they got here is good. I like the shrimp and beer cheese," David Mayes says. "I couldn't be fonder of the beer cheese!"