Above: Circle J Barbeque smokes 60 pounds of meat every day. Holy cow. Photography courtesy of Circle J Barbeque.
It might seem sacrilegious, but Will Ponder will go ahead and say it: Circle J Barbeque, in Ruidoso, can compete with the BBQ big dogs in our neighboring state to the east. Ponder, owner of Circle J and a former Texan himself, says that his joint, which reopened after a long hiatus and change of hands, does only traditional Texas-style BBQ, meaning its meat is 100 percent wood-smoked, in a decades-old oak-fired smoker that is “the only true way of providing really good barbecue.”
Ponder, who is also co-owner, with his wife, Rebecca, of Sacred Grounds Coffee, as well as Glencoe Distillery, remains an entrepreneurial force at age 80. His signature? Smoked whiskey and smoked meats. In terms of the latter, Ponder wouldn’t go so far as to call himself a pitmaster, but he has overseen the creation of the menu and prides himself on making all of the sides. Of the selection of meats, the mouthwatering “beef ribs are really primo,” he says.