Not so long ago, if you had just finished off a bag of Barbara’s Burgers in Bells on a warm summer day, you might have topped things off with a snow cone from Melissa Perkins’ stand across the road. Her snow-cone stand, called Perk’s, became a landmark of its own in the small town.
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But come winter’s chill, Perkins had to shutter the stand as shaved ice was not what cold patrons craved. “We had to have something to do in the winter,” she said. So, she took up barbecuing. When Barbara’s Burgers closed down after fifty years, Perk’s added hamburgers to its menu to fill the void and, before long, moved from the stand to a building at the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and State Highway 56.
Perk’s drew crowds from all over for their quick and tasty offerings, and snow cones, of course. After seven years, when business began to slow down, Perkins sold the place, and a popular catfish restaurant now calls that location home.
Melissa Perkins missed the burgers and barbecue, and she missed serving her neighbors, so five years ago, the Perkins family decided to build a barbecue stand on the family land along SH 56 just inside Savoy’s city limits. Perk’s was reborn.
Driving down SH 56, a customer will first notice a large, bright red light spinning in the window of Perk’s stand. “When the red light’s on, we got barbecue cooking,” Perkins said. Inside the stand, Perkins is liable to be adding some chopped brisket to her homemade beans, which have simmered in a pot all night long. Or, she may be chopping up onions for her homemade potato salad. Down the hill, behind the stand, a “seasoned” looking smokehouse is where the barbecuing goes down.
“Don’t mind how it looks,” Perkins said. “It burned.” It may seem ironic, but their smokehouse did burn. But that didn’t set them back even one shift. A cord of oak and pecan is stacked around the smokehouse, ready to work the magic that will transform beef into barbecue.
But there is more than brisket on the menu. Perkins makes pulled pork, smoked ham, smoked sausage, hot links, pork ribs, and even a spicy, brown gravy sauce. Perkins grew up in Colbert, Oklahoma, and went to school with a girl who worked at PO Sam’s Barbecue. “I’d take her to work (at PO Sam’s), and in exchange for the ride, she’d give me a sandwich. I had a lot of PO’s sandwiches. I come to know that brown gravy.” As a nod to PO and the legions of fans of the spicy brown gravy, she worked up a recipe to offer to her patrons, as well.
Owner: Melissa Perkins
601 W. Hayes
U.S. 69 at Hwy 56