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Beat winter blues by getting taste of summer at various local BBQs
Earls BBQ Pitmaster Doug Sumpter pulls racks of ribs from the smoker as he prepares for the lunch rush. - photo by Brooke Borba

With foul weather afoot, many are seeking solace inside and dreaming of finer days. But thanks to local BBQ eateries, the tastes of backyard summer barbeques can be had any time of year.

Earl’s BBQ in Denair

A new restaurant earning critical acclaim in Denair is Earl’s BBQ, a barbeque joint focused on family recipes and country-style cooking. Owners Keith and Stephanie Stapp opened Earl’s BBQ  on April 2, 2012, and are amazed at how fast their fanbase is growing.

 “We use my grandmother’s homemade recipe for our beans. She was from Oklahoma, so we call them ‘Okie’ beans. My father and I came up with pork sauce. Our sauce is close to a tomato base, and that is more like what they do in the South. Our meats are so much different than everybody else. Everything is made from scratch,” Stapp said.

Pit-master Doug Sumter says the meat is where it’s at, especially for Super Bowl parties.

“We have a rib salad we are selling on preorder for the Superbowl. We have pickups for racks of ribs that are on sale for $16. The two pick up times are at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., and would work for parties,” Sumter said.

Twice a month, Earl’s BBQ has rib sales, the next one being this Monday.

“It is great for football fans,” Stapp said. “You can buy whole briskets, whole porks and tri-tips everyday if you wanted to. It is smoked and ready to go. All I need is a 24-hour notice.”

For more information on Earl’s BBQ, or to place an order, call 250-2415.

Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop on Modesto

For those looking for home-cooked meals in the Modesto area, Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop is a general favorite for anytime of the year.

Owner Doc Gaylor has award-winning chicken, pulled-pork and biscuits, tri-tip, and a variety of other barbequed items all smoked until the tender meat falls off the bone. Gaylor even makes his own hotlinks, but is best known for his exceptional ribs. “They are smoked three or four hours. Sometimes they go a little longer, though. My barbeque is done the old-fashioned way, and it takes a long time and uses real wood. I put 19 different herbs and spices on them too,” Gaylor said.

The sides consist of collard greens, candied yams, BBQ beans, red beans and rice, black eyed peas, and potato salad. If you take delight in spicy food, Doc’s can cater to your needs. There are four different types of sauces that range from light to “Hella Hot.”

“We’ll satisfy your yearn to burn,” said Gaylor.

Doc’s also hosts one of the Central Valley’s first BBQ trucks to make ordering convenient for out of towners, and has sold its meat for the last two years at the Modesto Downtown Farmer’s Market.

Doc’s likes to hand out free samples to those who ask in order to get a first-hand perspective of the cooking. Gaylor believes that he can convince anyone who tries his cooking to be hooked.

“They say that happy cows come from California. Well, happy ribs come from Doc’s,” he said.

The authentic smoker out front, complete with the aromatic smell of barbeque is sure to make you forget that it is winter.

For more information about Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop, visit

Fruit Yard in Modesto

Since 1977, The Fruit Yard in Modesto has been serving members of the Central Valley as a bakery, country market, and even a BBQ stop.

Though the name proves to be misleading for first time visitors, the restaurant offers a variety of barbeque sandwiches, including tri-tip, linguica, BBQ chicken, and drunken pork sandwiches.

The Fruit Yard offers family dinners that feature racks of pork, baby back ribs, and three half chickens. Take out is an option for get-togethers at home.

A la carte meats are also sold from a variety of different prices and include full or half rack ribs.

“Super Party Specials” are intended to serve between 10 to 12 people with large quantities of meat. The meat is cooked on the grill while it is half smoked by wood charcoal, providing a richer flavor compared to most home grills.

“We have really good pork spare ribs and baby back ribs. But we are mainly famous for our tri-tip. We make everything right on the spot,” said deli employee Jeff Sweyd.

The sizzling sauna of heat rising from freshly barbequed meat should be enough to make anyone disregard their winter woes and believe that summer has finally arrived.

For more information about The Fruit Yard Restaurant and BBQ menu, visit

209 staff reporter