We should get this out of the way right now. One of us is vegetarian. But that’s only part of our story. From itsy bitsy catering to BBQ catering to BBQ storefront with regular hours, we are LeRoy Infamous UpTexas BBQ.
What’s in a name? We’re gonna break it down for you…
We started catering soon after we met in 2011. It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was a demand for local meat and local BBQ, especially reasonably priced, yummy smoked brisket.
For a few years, we “faked” smoking brisket and other meat on grills, borrowed bigger grills, borrowed smokers, etc. We’re good like that—making things work, no matter what. But It didn’t take long to realize that we needed our very own smoker if we were going to have a go at this and meet the increasing demand for good local BBQ.
I (Erin) used to live in Texas (more on that later) and one summer I got real nostalgic for my time there. I read “Franklin BBQ” by Aaron Franklin as well as Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Franklin’s step-by-step instructions for building an offset smoker got my wheels going and I showed my husband Josh who, in turn, got pretty excited about building us our very own smoker.
He sourced all of the material locally—we’re pretty sure that the 12’ barrel is the original gas tank that used to be at the downtown Millheim Gas Station. Our firebox is an old woodstove. We put some big old tractor wheels on it so we could move it a little easier. He and his friend Jimmy built it and we knew from the first time we used it that it would change our lives. We love LeRoy.
And oh yeah, LeRoy was my Dad’s middle name, and he died right before we made LeRoy. So this smoker is a tribute to my Dad—he was the life of the party and always the grill master. He would’ve loved LeRoy too.
And who are we? Well, LeRoy Infamous UpTexas BBQ is us, Erin Condo McCracken and Joshua McCracken. We also have two young sons who you’ll likely meet if you ever come see us. And perhaps you’ve heard of us. I’ll say that when we moved to the small town of Millheim, we ruffled a few feathers. It could be said that we continue to do so. Some people like us for that, some don’t. But here we are, doing what we do, and doing it well.
Josh McCracken is the aforementioned vegetarian. Has been for over 20 years. I tried it once, but then I moved to Texas. Anyway, Josh is one of those people that can do anything (except eat meat). He’s really smart, he’s a fine carpenter, builds timber frame houses and can put in electrical and plumbing. I know this because he restored the Bremen Town Ballroom from gross dive bar to a space tres elegante. Really, you should see it!
Another thing about Josh—this tough guy working man is the best pie baker and bread maker around. Again, I’m not kidding. His work in this arena is legendary, so much so that we sell loaves of “Josh Bread” on our menu.
Having a vegetarian owner also changes the way we look at meat and the animals. We constantly work to reduce food waste and we work with local farmers, butchers, and slaughter houses to source meat when we can.
Me? I’m Erin McCracken. I started out as Erin Condo. Although I have deep roots in central PA, I grew up in MD and have lived in almost all of the different parts of the United States. When I was 14, I got my first job in a restaurant. I am a songwriter and musician and I’ve even dabbled in politics.
Josh and I met in 2011 and we got busy. Within a year, we had bought a building, started a business, got married, and had a baby. That business venture, EcoVents, led to LeRoy Infamous UpTexas BBQ, and here we are.
There are very cool coincidences in this world, and one of them is that I love Texas and even though I live in Pennsylvania (which I also love, obviously), I managed to settle down in the obscure and mysterious “UpTexas” neighborhood of Millheim, PA. There are a lot of explanations for why that part of our town is called “UpTexas,” but I’ve yet to find a definitive one. The only thing we can glean from the stories is that it was a bit outlaw-ish. We’ll take it.
I moved to Austin, Texas after leaving my PhD program in Rural Sociology at Penn State. Academia burnout drove me right into the arms of live music, and I was having my go. While there, I ate my way through the state—frito pie, tacos, and BBQ. Really awesome bbq.
One night at a concert at the Bremen Town Ballroom, I stood outside and talked to my butcher, Helen. I’d had a few drinks and we were talking about our big plans for the future. Without thinking I blurted, “I want nothing less than to build a culture of BBQ in Central Pennsylvania!”
Yes, I was feeling pretty bold. Josh had just built our smoker at that point. But here I was, thinking big. The best we could do at this point is steal from the real BBQ traditionalists in Texas and the Carolinas? Perhaps St. Louis? Right?
Well, we are students (even disciples) of these BBQ traditions, but we are also committed to making a new authentic BBQ experience right here in Central Pennsylvania. Our menu borrows heavily from Texas and East Carolina—why mess with these strong traditions—so what do we bring to the table?
Here’s all I know—we focus on the food, the meat, making sure that the natural flavor comes out. We use simple ingredients. We buy local meat when possible. Our BBQ sauce is pretty good. And then there’s Josh Bread as well as our homemade pickles. We’ve got pies that compete with any highway diner in the Northeast.
And then there’s our vegetarian menu. Yes, I said it, we’ve got smoked tofu and fresh vegan salads. And guess what, you’ll love it and your belly will be full and happy.
In Pennsylvania, we’ve got to hold our own in this crazy BBQ culture! It’s time for us to be on the map and LeRoy wants to help!