America’s Best Restaurants recognizes Clark's Outpost in Tioga
By Basil Gist
Continuing a legacy their father worked his way into, Rebecca Binyon and Dustin Hilliard continue to bring homestyle BBQ and family atmosphere to their customers in and around Tioga.
Thanks to a local nomination, “America’s Best Restaurants” will be on location Thursday to recognize Clark’s Outpost.
“We’ve got 1,000 restaurants we’re visiting next year,” ABR CEO Matt Plapp said. “Our goal is to find locally owned restaurants where people want to eat every week. We’re also looking for restaurants that are actively involved in the community.”
Founded in 1974 by Warren Clark before being bought after Clark died in the 90s, the business passed to his wife Nancy Clark. At that time, James Hilliard took the opportunity to purchase it from the aging widow and continue its legacy.
“My dad, James Hilliard, was one of his first dishwashers back when it first started,” Rebecca said. “He was 14. Dad stayed with Warren most of his life.”
A decade later and three years prior to James’ passing, the business caught fire and subsequently burned to the ground. It was James Binyon and Dustin who built it back up using the bones of the old building.
“Dad kept most of his longtime employees during the rebuild process cleaning the brick you now see on the interior and exterior of the building,” Rebecca said. “The ones that are black are charred from the fire.”
Many of those same employees continue to serve Clark’s customers.
“We still have Jeff and Frido here, Patty and Lydia, so many of the folks that have been here for so long, some since very early at Clark’s start,” Rebecca said. “I truly could not do it without them. Daily they help keep it all together.”
Though the menu has of course seen adjustments over the years, Rebecca explained the brisket and sauce are as they have ever been. She further said the team has ensured certain southern menu items, calf fries for example, have persisted even as they’ve refined the menu over the years.
“The other thing that hasn’t really changed for us is the way we do BBQ, that’s a sit-down dinner service,” Rebecca said. “We’re a restaurant. We want you to come in, sit down and enjoy.”
The filming will be on Thursday and is open to the public.
“Our goal is to capture the restaurant as it’s being used every day normally,” Plapp said. “Our show airs and debuts on the restaurant’s Facebook page. I want to meet the customers where they are at. I want the restaurant to get the most attention.”
Rebecca praised ABR for their mission and further invited her customers to join them next Thursday.
“I’m very passionate about the small business aspect,” Rebecca said. “You have to be engaged, and to see a company that really honors and understands that is really great. We want customers to come fill the restaurant, folks that have been coming here for years or folks that haven’t.”