Follow-up File: Foodies flock to Cayucos smokehouse

Ruddell’s Smokehouse is at 101 D St. in Cayucos.
Ruddell’s Smokehouse is at 101 D St. in Cayucos. The Tribune

Name: Jim Ruddell

Job: Owner

Business: Ruddell’s Smokehouse

What he said then: In June 2011, The Tribune’s Ticket section featured Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos.

The takeout eatery, which has a few outdoor tables, sits just steps from the beach south of the village’s pier. Its menu offers tacos and sandwiches filled with seafood, chicken or meat — all smoked by owner Jim Ruddell.

After a 30-year career as an auto repairman, Ruddell turned his lifelong fascination with the smokehouse into a second career in late 2001.

Last year, the business began to attract national attention when a producer for Food Network star Bobby Flay stopped in to try one of the fish tacos he’d heard about. Ruddell’s soon appeared on “BBQ with Bobby Flay.”

It also appeared in Rachael Ray’s food blog, Sunset Magazine and Coastal Living Magazine.

What he says now: The media attention has helped put Ruddell’s Smokehouse on the radar of “foodie” travelers and continues to boost sales.

“Those things are priceless,” Ruddell said. “You can’t buy that kind of advertising.”

Yet he did nothing specifically to attract media attention. Like many of his sales, it came from a wordof-mouth recommendation.

More recently, the take-out eatery was in a California “taco tour” story in The New York Times. That story was later picked up by the Orange County Register and several Southern California magazines.

“We went into last summer with this incredible blast of publicity,” he said. “It challenged my ability to actually keep up with it.”

Wait times during busy hours began creeping close to an hour. Though many customers are willing to wait, others walked out.

Ruddell knew changes were needed.

He worked with his staff on organization and efficiency. He invested in equipment to help streamline processes. With three to four people working at a time in the 250-square-foot space, these have proven essential.

“We practiced,” Ruddell said. “Right now, we’re down to about eight to 10 minutes.”

To keep enough product smoked to meet daily demand, Ruddell now heats up the smoker at 3 a.m., so he can finish before the kitchen opens.

Through Labor Day, he’s bumped up production to six days a week.

Because of the triple-digit temperatures in the North County and the Central Valley, Ruddell expects he’ll be flooded by those looking for cooler climes.

“My particular business is very weather dependent. We’re having a great summer,” he said. “I’ll sleep in September.”

Raven J. Railey’s Follow-Up File column is special to The Tribune. Have an idea for a follow-up? Each week, The Tribune checks in with a business it has reported on before. Send suggestions to