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Barbecue Runs in Her Blood

(This article was written by Remi Gibbs and appeared in the July 2024 issue of Explore Harlingen Magazine.)

An unassuming tan building resides at 3134 Wilson Road in Harlingen. There is a painted black and white sign in front that reads Backyard BBQ. Don’t be deterred by the modest exterior; it is certainly worth a stop. The smell of smoke and roasting meat entices you as you approach the restaurant.

Backyard BBQ pitmaster Carina Gomez with her father, Valde Gomez. Photo courtesy of Backyard BBQ.

The building has been there since 2004 when the Gomez family opened it up to be Backyard Burgers. Unfortunately, that version of the restaurant had a short life due to the owner, Valde Gomez, having medical issues. He rented the restaurant out for almost 20 years, until his daughter, Carina Gomez, now 43, was ready to take over the helm. The restaurant reopened just over a year ago.

Due to some bad choices and hard knocks early in her adult life, Carina was a bit delayed in nurturing her BBQ roots, but this girl is now on fire! She is dominating a male-led industry as a BBQ Pit Master. She fashions herself in Rosie the Riveter style, which is somehow appropriate on this D-Day 80th anniversary interview. She loves this role she finds herself in as she feels like she is empowering her daughters and young girls to be whatever they want to be. She is creating a legacy for her kids as her father did for her.

Pitmaster Carina Gomez manning the pits at Backyard BBQ. Photo courtesy of Remi Gibbs.

Carina says she remembers her dad barbequing all the time when she was young for friends and family and that barbeque runs in her blood. This eventually led her to work for Pit Stop Smoke House where she learned all she could about the BBQ business, so she could take that knowledge home and reopen their family restaurant.

Carina’s dad is the backbone of the business and of the family. He chops the wood, sets up the pits, and stays up overnight to watch the briskets. Carina says, “Without my dad, nothing would be possible. He is my biggest cheerleader and never gives up on me.” Her entire family participates in the restaurant including her three children. The kids and their spouses have mastered making the sides and serving customers while she focuses on smoking the meat. The family all lives on-site behind the restaurant. So, they eat, breathe, and dream barbeque.

Backyard BBQ burger and fries. Photo courtesy of Backyard BBQ.

Backyard BBQ offers brisket, ribs, sausage, and chicken. They regularly run out of chicken and mac-n-cheese as they are fan favorites. Rumor has it that their mixed-meat burger is one of the best in town. You can enjoy your barbeque on a plate, stuffed in a potato, as a taco, on top of cheesy fries, as a sandwich, or in a bowl. For dessert, everyone loves their banana pudding. For the summer, they are offering banana splits and assorted ice cream flavors. They even had a root beer float on special while interviewing. Coming soon: raspas!

Ribs with mac and cheese at Backyard BBQ. Photo courtesy of Backyard BBQ.

Backyard BBQ is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm, closed Sunday and Monday. They are located at 3134 Wilson Road in Harlingen, cattycorner from Gutierrez Middle School. They are open for dining in, pick-up, and catering. They can be reached at 956-230-8930. Follow their Facebook page,, for specials.


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