All of our meats are slow cooked on site in cast iron smokers heated only with green oak and mesquite. Our Beef Brisket and the Pork Shoulder are cooked for 18 to 24 hours. The smokers were delivered from Texas and are hand built by a family who have been making cast iron smokers for generations. Our Brisket is cooked with the fat-cap that becomes crispy to hold in flavor, and the pork shoulder is cooked with bone in for the best pork flavor. Our sides, including coleslaw, rice, beans, and chili are made fresh daily on site with long held family recipes.
Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ is owned and operated by Matt Shlemon and his wife, Athena. In the 80’s Matt was a college student majoring in pre-med in Chicago, but didn’t like the weather there, so after Matt received he bachelors degree he and Athena came to San Diego. One day in 1987, just weeks after coming to San Diego, Matt was having lunch at Real Texas BBQ and found it to be the best food he had ever had! The restaurant was not for sale, but Matt talked with the owners and at that first lunch Matt made an offer on a paper napkin to buy the restaurant. After a few hours of discussions and several napkins worth of notes, Matt was in the BBQ restaurant business. Before he took over however, and while the notes from the napkins were being transferred to escrow documents, Matt and Athena took a trip to Texas and visited BBQ restaurants and talked to the customers. In Texas they learned about wood smokers, meats, sauces and so much more.
While they are both American citizens now, Matt & Athena were born and raised in Iraq, and are Chaldean-Assyrian Christians. They have 5 children between 11 & 20, raised Catholic. They are Mathew, Mark, Abbey, and twins Angie & Kiana. The children have grown-up in the restaurant and now work there. The restaurant is nearly all family operated, including the manager for 19 years, Athena’s Sister, Nawal, and Nawals son James.
Their daughter, Abbey, seemed to love BBQ the most, and because Matt felt ‘Texas BBQ’ was a little over used as a company branding, in 1998 he called the restaurant ‘Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ’.
Matt & Athena had not been to Iraq for 20 years, but with the new democracy safer and more peaceful now, Athena has gone back for a year and is working with the US Military and Iraqi government as a linguist. A part of Athena’s work involves teaching classes acquainting Iraqi women with life in America, including opportunities of opening their own businesses, something that would not have been allowed in Iraq before the liberation.
Matt Shlemon often says how thankful he is for the opportunities this country has given him and his family, and he tells his customers every day as they come in for lunch and dinner how thankful and appreciative he is for their business and support over the past 21 years.