March 31, 2021
Miss Essie’s Southern BBQ brings “the South to your mouth” through home-cooked smoked meats and authentic BBQ sauce. Miss Essie’skeeps Southern-style cuisine alive with family-inspired recipes and BBQ sauces that are sold wholesale and through curbside pickup.
“We are not just a family to be consumers and to take. We want to build something that builds long-lasting relationships.”
Owner and Founder Marcus Jones’ grandmother, Miss Essie, is the inspiration behind the go-to BBQ restaurant in Murray. Essie’s sheer determination and faith laid the foundation for Jones to create a family business. Jones recalls how Essie moved her family of six children from Arkansas to California by herself: “The community took care of her and she took care of them,” Jones says. “That relationship is what the business Miss Essie’s is: We are not just a family to be consumers and to take. We want to build something that builds long-lasting relationships.”
The lineage of determination extends further back to Jones’ great-great-grandfather, who owned a farm and had a small grocery store on site that provided for his family and the nearby community. “I fell in love with the fact that my grandfather was a Black, independent man who worked hard to have his own business for his family … even through opposition,” Jones says. He notes how those ideals must be translated into society today; how he is setting up a legacy for his family just as his great-great-grandfather did.
As Jones gets older, he understands just how Essie supported the entire family through her cooking. Jones says, “She took care of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. My grandmother and spirituality were the backbones of the family.” Jones’ culinary knowledge spurs from his grandmother’s understanding of small-batch, home-cooked meals. He sought to create a unique sauce that enhanced the integral Southern-style food it accompanies. A sauce, he says, “that is full-bodied, refreshing and makes you want to go back for more.” Jones and his father, Manuel Jones, began cooking a sauce recipe handed down from Essie, and officially started Miss Essie’s as it is known today in 2008 with his business partner, Deonn Henderson.
“I fell in love with the fact that my grandfather was a Black, independent man who worked hard to have his own business for his family … even through opposition.”
Jones and his father took the core, “backyard cooking–style” family recipes and created a sauce that builds upon spice and flavor for a product that stands out above the rest. The Smoked BBQ Southern Style ribs, Southern Honey BBQ pulled pork and honey-glazed chicken thighs are slow cooked and made to work with the unique spice blend of each BBQ sauce. Jones’ recipes and Miss Essie’s BBQsauces can be paired with their Southern comfort dishes, including the Southern-seasoned roasted garlic mashed potatoes, sweet corn, green beans and mac and cheese with a southern twist, available through the business’ catering services.
Vegetarians or vegans can order smoked portabella mushroom lettuce wraps or jackfruit pulled pork-style sandwich paired with the Apple Cider Vinegar BBQ sauce, a combination that Jones says he is proud of because “they are healthy, flavorful and enjoyed by non-vegans too.” Jenny Gnash, Miss Essie’s Marketing Director, publishes recipes on the website that infuse their BBQ sauces into each dish. For instance, the fried green tomatoes use the Honey BBQ for a dip, and loaded nachos with BBQ sauce offer a creative way to use the BBQ sauce without meat.
If you are to order online, the meals and side dishes will come in a ready-to-bake oven safe container or can be picked up warm and ready to eat. Miss Essie’s catering is equipped to provide meals for the range between intimate events to large corporate ones. Miss Essie’s, for instance, caters large events hosted at the Costco in Salt Lake a few times a year. For small or large parties, Miss Essie’s chefs are able to create a customizable menu developed during personal consultations based on clients’ tastes and budgets.
For Jones, Miss Essie’s stands as the pinnacle of family and offers quality food that brings the community together. To him, the business also fills a niche that needed to be met in Utah. “As a Black-owned company that does Southern cuisine, we stand out because I’ve worked with chefs and used my background to refine our menu and make it look as good as it tastes.” More specficially, “Everybody can cook pulled pork, but it’s what you do with it that matters. It tastes like your grandmother’s, but has a crafted restaurant flare,” he says.
Miss Essie’s was built on the foundation of spreading community through food. Amid the pandemic, patrons have been able to get the iconic BBQ sauces and well-crafted cuisine through contactless pickup. Jones has seen, even though turbulent times, that the community responds resiliently. This business, its traditions and patrons, represent something larger to Jones: “This is ours, our piece of the American pie,” he says.
“As a Black-owned company that does Southern cuisine, we stand out because I’ve worked with chefs and used my background to refine our menu and make it look as good as it tastes.”
Besides curbside pickup and catering, Miss Essie’s BBQ sauce can be picked up at associated Smith’s grocery stores. In the future, Jones plans on making the product even more accessible through stores such as Costco, Harmons and WinCo. Find more information at missessiesbbq.com.
Photo: Joshua Joye