Though the New Braunfels Smokehouse Restaurant closed its doors in 2008, you can still experience the legacy of this historic smokehouse at their Deli and Country Store where you can dine in, use the drive-thru window, or grab a few packaged products to go.
In 1943, Russell Kemble “Kim” Dunbar, bought five ice plants in small towns across South Texas. The ice plant in New Braunfels was on the site of the former New Braunfels Brewing Company. Prior to Prohibition, the brewing company reportedly brewed a beer that was as potent as whiskey. During Prohibition, they switched to making “near beer,” a non-alcoholic beer named “Busto.” Soon the town came up with an advertising slogan for the tasty beverage: “There is no beer near here, but we have near beer here.”
During the 1940s, when home refrigeration was limited, local farmers and ranchers brought their own meats to the ice plant for cold storage. Benno Schuennemann, a local German-American who worked at the New Braunfels ice plant, turned customer’s raw hams and turkeys into delicious hickory smoked meats. Benno was the first “Smoke Master” of the Smokehouse. Using old German recipes to cure and smoke the meats, Benno produced smoked hams and sausages that were the talk of the area. Soon, word spread and people wanted the meats sent to them throughout Texas.
Kim and his good friend Bill Wyatt, a prominent advertising executive, talked of creating a brochure to advertise the hickory smoked meats. The idea came to them in 1945, while playing a round of golf at the San Antonio Country Club. That was how the New Braunfels Smokehouse got its start in the mail order business.
Kim began to divide his time between San Antonio, New Braunfels, and the South Texas ranch country. He had a thriving municipal bond business and was active in the cattle business. It was then that Kim’s wife, Arabel, entered the business. She knew that in order to sell a food product, people needed to taste it. Thus, the New Braunfels Smokehouse Restaurant was born. In 1952, the Dunbars opened a “Tastin’ Room” on Highway 81 in New Braunfels with the intention of attracting people travelling between San Antonio & Austin. Our architect, inspired by old Smoky Mountain smokehouses, designed a small building with bent pipe chimneys and walls that leaned. They completed the country look of the little store by locating it in a corn patch complete with cut-out pigs, cows, and a giant mountain man named Zeke. Arabel furnished it with early Texas furniture because it was inexpensive and readily available, and because she loved the country, home-place look.
The country store remains much like the first store that was created back in the 1950s, and most of the Smokehouse's sales still come from their own unique hickory smoked meats.