Blue Ribbon Awards: Two Restaurants Take Home Kudos For Cleanliness

The Cherokee County health inspector says DJ's Smokehouse at 401 W. Larissa in Jacksonville is worthy of their second KLTV Blue Ribbon, given to restaurants having perfect inspections for several years and rising above their peers in the community.

Desiree Lindsey is part of the family that runs DJ's during lunch.

"It's just a friendly family atmosphere," she says. "We always try to learn who [customers] are and with most people who come in, we know them by name."

So she and the rest of the gang at DJ's Smokehouse know what most of the customer's want just as they walk in the door. The brisket and ribs are popular, but DJ's is famous in East Texas for their spuds.

"Fluff it up and put your meat and butter and cheese in it, and we can mix and match it up any way you want," Desiree says of their baked potatoes.   Their spuds have been known to be over two pounds, but it's how they take care of the customers, by meticulously cleaning, scrubbing, and caring, that earns them their second Blue Ribbon award.

Brad Streit, KLTV General Manager tells Desiree: "Here I am back here two years later. I understand for two years straight, you've had perfect scores.  So congratulations on your second Blue Ribbon Award."

Desiree Lindsey: "We just get in [the kitchen] and try to clean up as quickly and efficiently as possible and keep everything going.  We put bleach on everything and keep soap on everything."

That keeps a loyal and happy customer base.

From the massive potatoes at DJ's Smokehouse to a first time winner:  Taste Of East Texas at 105 E. Main in the city of Henderson, right in the heart of town.   Debbie Sproles is the owner.

"I opened up this small business when I was passing time when my child was in school," she says. "It became a catering business as well as the restaurant."

She says it's a family atmosphere here, too.

"Most of my girls, especially my kitchen help -- one of them has been here for 13 years, and one of them for eight years. We are a very small establishment, and we don't have a lot of room to make a big mess so we pick it up and move on to something else," she says.

In this kitchen, there is always a chance for spills.

"Because we do not have a very big kitchen at all. Very little."

So when something happens, each worker helps out the other -- taking care of problems well before they become a threat to the customers health.

"It's one big family. A lot of us have been here several years. And everyone knows how to cover everyone else's job, so it's nice."

And hard work pays off.

Barbara Smith, KLTV Longview Sales Manager presented the Blue Ribbon Award: "Debbie. It's an absolute pleasure to award you this KLTV Blue Ribbon Award."

Two hometown restaurants, DJ's Smokehouse and Taste Of East Texas -- both with a record of perfection with their local health inspector, and with their customers as well.

Note: Both DJ's Smokehouse and Taste of East Texas are only open for lunch.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.