The Student News Site of University of Texas at Arlington (Department of Communication)

Lone Star Sentinel

The Student News Site of University of Texas at Arlington (Department of Communication)

Lone Star Sentinel

The Student News Site of University of Texas at Arlington (Department of Communication)

Lone Star Sentinel

Hurtado’s offers Tex-Mex BBQ flair

UTA alumnus builds a gastronomic legacy
Mia Medellin
Hurtado Barbecue Restaurant founder and owner Brandon Hurtado poses in front of a mural at his Arlington, Texas, location.

ARLINGTON, Texas– Taste the legacy. Those are the words on the canopy outside Hurtado Barbecue in Downtown Arlington, the first brick-and-mortar location for University of Texas at Arlington alumnus Brandon Hurtado.

“I chose Arlington as kind of the home base for Hurtado Barbecue because I went to college here,” Hurtado said. “I am a UTA alum, and I just felt like what better place to start a barbecue restaurant than the city I went to college in.”

Before owning three Hurtado Barbecue locations across DFW and being the official barbecue for the Texas Rangers. Hurtado started as a business administration major and then switched to public relations.

“My PR degree had a lot to do with helping me succeed as an entrepreneur,” Hurtado said. “I started a marketing agency in 2015 called ankr, which I still run, and I hired a bunch of UTA students as interns, and as full-time employees after they graduated.”

Hurtado says he’s done a lot of things to get him to where he is now. He believes it humbled him and helped him.

“I’ve worked in retail, I’ve worked in manufacturing, I’ve worked in customer service,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of different things that all complemented what I was doing and helped me in different aspects of running a business. I’ve worked in a call center before and worked some jobs that no one probably wants to work—it’s honestly really humbling to work the jobs I worked.”

Having a background in public relations allowed Hurtado to have a different perspective when running his business.

“Digital marketing kind of helped saved my restaurant business,” he said. “We launched our brick-and-mortar in 2020, which obviously was when COVID happened, so we went to online ordering specifically whenever COVID hit. I had to really shift our marketing focus towards online.”

A line begins to form outside Hurtado Barbecue Restaurant in Arlington, Texas.

Hurtado said opening a barbecue restaurant was not something he imagined growing up.

“I just always liked to cook, and barbecue was just something I did as a pastime or a hobby while I was doing digital marketing full-time,” Hurtado said. “I’m a perfectionist, and I started out by making real bad barbecue and I wanted to learn how to be better at that, so that’s what kind of drove me to do barbecue more as a job, wanting to be better at it.”

Hurtado Barbecue isn’t just the average barbecue place. The white styrofoam cups at Hurtado Barbecue read: ”A little Tex. A little Mex. A whole lotta damn good BBQ.” Growing up Hispanic and enjoying the food even more as an adult, Hurtado knew a Tex-Mex fusion was something he wanted to do.

“That’s just kind of what drew me to do barbecue even more, was finding a way to be different and doing Tex-Mex barbecue was something no one in Arlington had done before,” Hurtado said. “We’re one of the very few restaurants and probably the first in Arlington to do Tex-Mex Barbecue.”

Hurtado’s path to Globe Life Field in Arlington began a couple of years ago as part of a pilot program at Globe Life called Arlington Eats, under which restaurants in the city could sell their dishes to fans.

“It’s kind of surreal from doing pop-ups underneath an umbrella, to having your own place inside Globe Life Field and working with Texas Rangers players,” Hurtado said. “Stepping inside the ballpark for the first time seeing my name on board it was really cool. It was more surreal taking my family and my grandma seeing the signage and everything.”

Hurtado said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to run his restaurant.

“You have to work really hard to get where you want to be,” Hurtado said. “I’ve worked really, really hard, [and] I get humbled every day I come to the restaurant. I take out the trash, I help wash dishes, I help with whatever it takes to run this place. I’m willing to do it, and that’s what you have to be willing to do to be successful.”

Jordyn Payne, an employee at Hurtado Barbecue, describes the work environment under Hurtado as both straightforward and accommodating.

“He’s very easy-going,” Payne said. “Tells you straightforward, he makes it known on how he wants his business run, and we make it happen for him.”

Dr. Rebecca Deen, a UTA political science professor and senior associate dean of UTA’s College of Liberal Arts, said she first encountered Hurtado when he was selling his barbecue at Legal Draft in Downtown Arlington as a pop-up. She said she reminisces about those Sundays spent indulging in barbecue while watching football.

“They would come on Sundays, and my husband and I would watch football and eat barbecue,” Deen said. “So naturally, when he told me about his plans for the brick-and-mortar, I was very supportive, and I was actually one of the crazy ones who stood in line for hours on his opening day.”

Deen said she appreciates not only Hurtado’s culinary skills but also the work environment he has fostered for his employees.

“They are just as nice to their customers even when he is not there,” Deen said. “That really struck me about him at the beginning. Culture is hard to maintain when you don’t have a physical presence.”

Hurtado Barbecue now has locations in Arlington, Fort Worth and Mansfield.

For an audio version of this story, click here.

The mural outside of Hurtado Barbecue Restaurant in Arlington, Texas, celebrates the Tex-Mex fusion the restaurant brings to its cuisine.
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