I went to the memorial service today for Mike Armstrong of Roy’s Barbecue. I went hunting tonight for the photos of Mike I’d put on the blog. It made me chuckle that they’re basically the same photo taken at different times, because Mike was always hard at work, and always smiling. I’m certain Mike would like the fact that he gave me a chuckle, even on the day of his memorial service.
This one is from June 25, 2006, which included this excerpt, “We did go to lunch at Roy’s. When I was outside the door I could hear Mike chopping inside and it occurred to me that that is one of the “sounds of Roy’s.” I’m always into sound – I guess it comes from all those years in radio.”
This one is from November of 2005, when we stopped by after the Christmas parade, with Clarence the dino still on top of the van. It included this excerpt, “After the parade, we drove to Roy’s for some lunch. Anne came out to see what was pulling up in their driveway. I pulled her over to have her photo taken with the dino. She wasn’t too eager so I didn’t push my luck and put the Santa hat on her. Christmas is not her favorite time of year. I’m working on her. Slowly.Of course, someone still has to be working to keep the barbecue flowing. Mike was doing just that.”
This one is from September of 2005, when we were taking some friends out to one of our favorite spots, which inluded this excerpt, “I snapped a pic of Mike working hard at Roy’s. They have the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten some barbecue.”
I only knew Mike from Roy’s, but people become a part of your lives when you are a regular customer – especially in that kind of a circumstance where it’s a small, intimate place. I think that’s especially true when it’s a place you’re eating, too. Food is so primal – the very sustenance of life – and Mike prepared it so well. Son, Ryan, has been cooking and chopping for awhile now, and he’s doing a great job. I’m glad Mike had some time to do things he enjoyed the last few months.
When I went to the service today I wasn’t sure if it was really appropriate for me to be there. I was not a close friend of Mike’s, but when a friend called to tell me the notice was in the paper, I had a desire to pay my respects. There were a few other regular customers there today, but not as many as I expected. I’m not sure what is appropriate in this circumstance – you don’t want to feel you’re intruding on a private occasion for family and close friends – but you don’t want the family to feel you don’t care either.
It was a beautiful service. I was impressed with it. Anne and I spoke just briefly and she told me she planned it. It was lovely – personal and moving, with moments of humor as well. The recessional was “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” because Mike was a big Yankees fan and even played college baseball at Pittsburg State. After the service, there was a balloon launch in front of the church, to release Mike’s spirit. Blue and white balloons were handed out to each of us and after a brief reading, we all let them go. I wanted to take a photo because it was such a beautiful sight, but that didn’t seem appropriate so I didn’t.
I just know I’m glad I went. It was an honor to be witness to the memory of such a fun-loving man. My heartfelt sympathies to Anne, their children, and the rest of the family. I know Mike will be missed by all who had the good fortune to cross his path in this lifetime.
Tonight I was looking for a particular blog entry I had written about Roy’s and in the process, discovered that in the last two and a half years on the blog I’ve mentioned Roy’s more than 80 times.
The entry I was looking for was from live journal, which, unfortunately, isn’t as searchable, so I’m going to repost it here.
This was written June 12, 2004……………………….
I consider myself somewhat of a barbecue aficionado. It’s one of the things I check out whenever I travel. Stephenson’s in North Carolina – spectacular. Corky’s in Memphis and Nashville – good stuff. Shemwells in Cairo, Illinois – not to be missed. Starnes in Paducah, Kentucky – tasty. Voodoo in New Orleans – yum. Bryant’s in Kansas City – an experience. Shorty Small’s in Little Rock – mmm, mmm good. Well, I could go on and on about BBQ, but this is about one of the best of the best.
I’m lucky to live in the same town – Hutchinson, Kansas – as one of the absolute best BBQ joints in the country. Roy’s. It’s wonderful. A rich, sweet, smoky sauce that permeates the meat to perfection. I always eat the beef at Roy’s, although I can also vouch for the turkey and ham, which I’ve partaken of when the beef is gone by the time I get there. The meat itself is wonderful – it’s really smoked – not psuedo-smoked out of a bottle.
Mike gets there very early every morning. He makes a certain amount. When it’s gone, it’s gone. So, go early or accept you may not be able to get your favorite meat. If you wait too long, you won’t be able to get anything. This is good stuff – made fresh – smoked with hickory – like BBQ is supposed to be. You serve up the coleslaw, potato salad, beans and other goodies yourself off the salad bar.
Anne and Mike are the proprietors at Roy’s. They’ve been in business 23 years so they know what they’re doing. It’s a small building, with one large round table in the front, and then an annex with other tables. If it’s your first time, don’t miss the communal experience of sitting at the round table.
You may notice the painted window pictured above says 11-4 or until the food is gone. Heads up here – they’re always closed by 2 – so don’t dally. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday. I know… hours are limited… doesn’t matter – plan your trip around it – you won’t be disappointed.
Going to Roy’s means heading down Hutchinson’s main street, turning onto 5th, toward Nickerson to the west. Continue on 5th – you’ll think you’re out of town. Keep going. And then you’ll see the cars parked all around a yellow building on the right, and sometimes in the grass across the highway. You’re there. Even if the line is out the door, as it often is – wait – things move along at a good clip.
Settle in and get ready for a treat. Meat is always perfect. Anne and Mike are always friendly. Experience is always ideal. If you become a regular they’ll know your name and your favorite in no time.
Even if you’re just passing through, you’ll be treated kindly. They’re used to out of towners because they’re listed in some of those books about great BBQ places. You’ll be happy to leave a few well-spent tourist dollars here. It’s also a bargain – in case I didn’t mention that. I eat a half sandwich, and it’s less than $6, including the all-you-can-eat fixin’s.
There are some other BBQ places in Hutchinson, including one that continues to buy a billboard near Roy’s – somehow thinking we’ll be fooled by marketing. Don’t bother with them. They may win contests with ballot box stuffing and such, but locals know for the real stuff you gotta head to Roy’s. Do you want BBQ or do you want meat with some liquid smoke poured over it?
Roy’s is one of the places people can’t wait to return to if they move out of town and come back for a visit. As I tell Anne occasionally, “If I can’t have Roy’s, I’ll do without.” You’ll feel the same once you’ve had it.
You can see more pix and get more info on the official site at http://www.roysbbq.com. You can even see the menu or order some sauce. The sauce is adored – a staple in Hutchinson kitchens. I even took some as a “thank you” gift to some folks I was staying with in Cairo, Egypt. They were thrilled and you will be too.