Ray Walter has been cooking almost his whole life. His latest food adventure, IndePit at Mecanico, is furthering that journey.

Walter said he’s tried a lot of other jobs, but since deciding to focus on food, he’s happier and calmer.

“It’s always just been natural to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “I’ve done other things, trying to find a more manly career, but I’ve always been at home and happy in the white coat.”

Walter brought his unique — for the Northwest, anyway — brand of barbecuing to Mecanico in February 2016, making a partnership with former owner Matthew Lind. Walter’s barbecuing start in Independence was at the former 2EZ Café in 2014.

In March, Walter took over the Mecanico pub side of the business.

“I’ve been holding down the fort for a year, running barbecue,” Walter said. “Now, the whole thing is mine.”

A culinary school graduate who said he could take a more traditional chef position that would pay nicely, Walter chose to stick with building a barbecue following in Independence.

Walter’s barbecue is cooked in an actual pit — not a barrel smoker — that he built out of cinder blocks and has been expanding since setting up at Mecanico. He started with a four-foot pit and now has a 16-foot pit, and a small staff to help him tend to it.

“I’m setting the bar higher for genuine barbecue in the Northwest. This is more like what you would find in the South,” Walter said. “We are in Oregon. People don’t barbecue the way they do down there.”

Mecanico, a converted gas station that still has the bay doors, features a bar with seven beers on tap and daily menu of what comes out of the pit and sides like baked beans, coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. For dessert, Walter rotates Dutch oven peach cobbler and chocolate stout cake.

People can sit in the bar or in what Walter calls “the backyard” that has tables and fire pits.

“People get to hang around the fire pits, have a few beers, smoke a cigar. You can have your dog here. You can’t get that in a restaurant,” he said. “That’s what I love about this. It’s like hanging out, having a barbecue in the backyard.”

IndePit isn’t the only place for barbecue in Polk County.

Lucky Halcom’s Black Rock BBQ has developed a following, in the literal sense.

The popular food truck rotates locations throughout the week and loyal customers tend to follow him from place-to-place.

Black Rock’s menu features wood-smoked pulled pork sandwiches and nachos, ribs, sausage, chicken and brisket.

Halcom spends three days a week in Dallas, Tuesdays and Fridays at the Pill Box, 625 SE Miller Ave., Dallas; and Thursdays through September at the Polk County Market at the Academy Building, 182 Academy St., Dallas.

Halcom said the truck will be Polk County for community festivals throughout the year, including the upcoming Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21.

“We’ll be around,” he said.

Country ribs or smoked brisket?

Smoked turkey or pulled pork?

BG’s Bar-B-Que in Monmouth has all of those, plus tasty sides like cheesy taters and cheesy garlic biscuit to make choosing what to have for dinner difficult.

Owner Bill Gordon, who lived in Kansas City for 30 years, opened the restaurant because he missed Midwest-style barbecue

The restaurant serves plates, sandwiches and platters, with the latter being big enough to share.

“I have a fairly sharply focused menu,” said Gordon shortly after opening BG’s in 2016. “I do a few things, and do them well.”

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