TAYLOR — No one was injured in an early-morning fire at Louie Mueller Barbecue Saturday, but a brick pit built in 1959 was lost.
According to Taylor Fire Chief Pat Ekiss, the department responded at about 4:45 a.m. Saturday.
“It was just from the build up of the byproducts of cooking in the pit that just overheated and took off,” Ekiss said. “We put it out and got it where they could manage it.”
Unfortunately it flared up again Sunday morning, and firefighters were called once again, this time responding from Taylor and Thrall, to put it out again. The second call came in at the same time the department, with the help of Coupland, Hutto and Round Rock were fighting a house fire at the corner of Edmonton and Third streets.
“While we were fighting that house fire, Louie Mueller came back into us because of a call from a passing motorist that smoke was pouring out of the building,” Ekiss said.
No one was injured in the house fire and the exact cause has yet to be determined, but Ekiss said investigators suspect an electric cord.
Wayne Mueller said a few embers breached the firewall and got into the grease pan which originally ignited the fire in the restaurant.
Staff members were the only ones in the building at the time as they were preparing for the day Saturday. Due to health department requirements, a Monday or Tuesday opening was not possible.
“We had a meeting with Williamson County (Monday) morning,” he said. “They have protocol we have to observe and had a list of items we have to go through to be sure we are meeting their standards.”
He hoped by Tuesday to have county officials back out for inspection.
“Once they approve us we will open up again,” he said, adding they already had plans to work around the loss. “We have other pits to utilize, but our main brick pit is completely inoperable and will have to be rebuilt from the ground up and that is our plan.”
The 54-year history of the pit will mean more than just a simple rebuild, but Mueller said the quality of the food will not suffer.
“I think the quality of food we will produce will be good,” he said. “The difference will be the depth of the flavor brought on by the 54 years of curing.”
The ballpark estimate for turnaround on a rebuilt pit, according to Mueller, is four weeks, which means the pit will be down at least two months with an additional couple of months’ seasoning and curing time.
“You have only one chance to properly season and cure a pit,” Mueller said. “We will be very diligent and detailed in our approach to season that thing up, as best as dad taught me anyway.”
The pit has a great deal of history attached to it as Louie Muller Barbecue has gained such notoriety in the barbecue world, and Mueller is hoping to turn that loss into a gain for many people.
“We are hoping to dismantle the bricks individually and sell them,” he said. “We will use the proceeds to pay off the deductible, then with all funds raised above that we will create a foundation for Texas history artifacts and preservation.”
No specifics were available about the plan, but those interested can check the restaurant’s website at www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com for information as it is available.
Mueller said he has been most moved by the outpouring of messages of support from all over.
“We’re just so thankful to everyone who has commented, called and texted in a show of support,” he said. “It has been fabulous and we can’t thank everyone enough. Everyone has been tremendous, we feel very fortunate.”