Owner of BBQ King is winding things down in preparation for retirement
By Ainslie Forsum
He graciously invited a customer to sit down outside of the little red hut, his voice booming over the street traffic. Soon he had engaged the young woman in conversation about her schoolwork and how to handle her stress. This isn’t unusual for Ken Fuller, owner of BBQ King, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant located on 18th Street. Locals have been flocking to this barbeque joint for over 30 years, and Fuller knows just about every one of them by name.
“The best part of my job is the people. I love it,” said Fuller.
Fuller attended University of Oregon as a student in the ‘70’s, and after working across the street at Safeway for years as a barbeque master, he decided to open his own business in 1980.
He was the first to establish a food cart in Eugene after he challenged legislature on the food vending ordinance law. This included restaurants and stores being able to barbeque outside, and applying it to mobile units that were previously not allowed to have running water, heat, or electricity. “Without my push, none of these street carts, coffee drive-thrus, or any of that stuff would’ve been available,” said Fuller.
There may be a lot of barbeque joints in town, but Fuller takes the self-appointed title of king. “We’re a small place that packs a big punch,” said Fuller. The smoker that he keeps behind the trailer is the key to his moist, flavorful meats.
Taylor Binder, who has been a customer at the BBQ King for over three years, agreed with Fuller as she ordered her usual, the pulled pork sandwich.
“I come here once a week when I like to treat myself. His cooking tastes so homemade with the perfect sauce, and he always makes me feel right at home like I’m talking to my dad,” said Binder.
After retiring, Fuller hopes to sell his sauce to local markets and restaurants. “I can’t reveal what it’s called yet, but I can tell you it’s delicious,” said Fuller.
Because his former employee of 15 years got married and left the area, it’s just him running the show now, although he definitely intends on hiring help in the future because he decided he can’t do it alone. “I did the university street fair for 20 years, and local events too. It’s just a lot by myself, so I stopped,” he said.
This is mostly a hobby for Fuller, who says his wife, who works for the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, and him are preparing to retire. “I don’t really need to work. It’s just something for me to do,” said Fuller. “Well I do need to work because I like money too, it’s just that I don’t have to work as hard as I used to,” he added with his gregarious laugh.