Chop Shop:
Jimmy Jenkins likes cutting up with customers, but it's his skill at the butcher block that makes Yantis Meat Market and Steak House an international draw

Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Billy, Jimmy and Larry Jenkins like to argue about who's the best cook, but the reason people love the steaks at Yantis Meat Market and Steak House, according to Jimmy's wife Suzette, is simple: "The real secret is simply good meat."
Staff photo by Patti Sells

April 8, 2004 -- Springtime tends to spark up the desire in folks to fire up their grills, but no matter what the season is at the Yantis Meat Market and Steak House, the grill is always hot and the steaks and burgers are a sizzling success.

"I don't believe I've ever had an unhappy customer," said Jimmy Jenkins, who opened up the steak house and butcher shop with his wife, Suzette, two years ago. "Everybody is well pleased with what they get out here."

Jimmy, who has been in the meat business since 1968, said he had always wanted to open up his own meat market. When the opportunity finally arose in his hometown of Yantis, family and friends were quick to convince him to go ahead and put in a grill also.

"I thought I might as well -- and it has really paid off," Jenkins said. "It's gone over real good. The business has more than tripled since we've opened up and it will go up again this year."

Suzette attributes her husband's knowledge of beef and its various cuts as a great asset to their thriving meat market and restaurant.

"We've all learned a lot from Jimmy," said Suzette of herself and the employees, who mostly are family members. "Cutting steaks takes a little skill -- it's really an art in itself."

"I know my meats," Jimmy said. "I've been in the business a long time."

According to Suzette, customers enjoy standing at the glass window that separates their food preparation room from the restaurant's eating area and watching Jimmy cut the meat.

"A lot of restaurants use boxed beef -- if you gave them a side of beef they wouldn't know where to start with it," she laughed, admitting she was one of those people.

Jimmy is not only good at cutting up beef, but also at cutting up with the customers, according to Suzette.

"Jimmy thinks socializing is a real important part of the business," she said. "He and his brothers do an excellent job of keeping the customers entertained."

"I'm the PR man when I'm not cooking or cutting steaks," Jimmy said. "I'm real big on making people feel at home when they come in here. Everybody's on a first name basis and has a good time around here."

Sharing the responsibility of "public relations" and cooking are two of Jimmy's brothers, Larry and Billy.

"They each think they're the best cook and are always carrying on about which one of them is the best," laughed Suzette, who claims "the real secret is simply good meat."

The Yantis Meat Market has become a favorite for many of the locals, according to Suzette, and it's "at the top of the list" for many of the fishermen visiting Lake Fork from other parts of the world.

"We're one of their first stops when they come down on their fishing trips," she said.

"We have people come in from New England, Canada, all over the United States, saying that they've heard about us and want to come eat at the Yantis Meat Market.

"It makes me kind of proud," Jimmy added.

Last May the Yantis Meat Market and Steak House was featured in Texas Highways magazine, and the Jenkins said they often see people who have detoured off Interstate 20 and Interstate 30 just to stop by and take pictures out in front of their establishment.

The eatery features an assortment of mouth-watering steaks specifically cut to your liking.

"We've got ribeyes, T-bones, tenderloins, strip steak, chopped steak and fresh ground chuck," said Jimmy. "We've been told we have the best hamburger in the country."

"And we're selling a ton of them," Suzette added.

Other items include ribeye sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, chopped steak and cold cut sandwiches made with fresh-cut lunchmeats and cheeses. Also on the menu are hot links and market-made link sausage in Italian, German, and their best selling variety -- jalapeno cheddar cheese.

"Nobody else around here that we know of has that recipe," said Jimmy.

According to the Jenkins, they are "packing them in" at their 1,200 square foot establishment located on State Highway 154.

"We can seat about 36 people in here comfortably," said Jimmy, who had to recently put a bench out front for waiting customers. "We're actually pretty fast on service. I guarantee people won't wait near as long here as they do in these other restaurants."

According to Jimmy, when it comes to eating a good steak, customers are willing to wait a little while if necessary. He said the average waiting time at the Yantis Meat Market is approximately 15 minutes.

"Very few people ever drive off," he said. "Our customers know we are short on space and they're usually pretty good about getting up and moving on when they're through eating. We love the business. It's lots of hours, but we enjoy it, and as far as my customers -- I love 'em all."

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