Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The road to freedom: Camino Alamo BBQ

Kevin Kim
Diego Duan serves Uyghur-style Xianjang kabobs to a customer at Camino Alamo BBQ on Guadalupe Street in Austin, TX on Aug 31, 2023.

Food holds more than just flavors — it also holds history. For Diego Duan, owner and operator of Camino Alamo BBQ, his Uyghur-style skewers represent his road to freedom.

A barbeque enthusiast, Duan opened Camino Alamo BBQ this summer, with all business taking place on the small rectangular patio of the SouthCloud Ramen. Customers choose between  lamb, beef or chicken Uyghur-style skewers, which are all made to order. 

From the outside, it may seem like an endearing barbeque stand, but Camino Alamo BBQ boasts a history that dates back four years. In 2019, Duan opened a restaurant selling Uyghur barbeque in his hometown of  Shanghai, China. The Uyghur people, many of whom practice Islam, are native to the Xinjiang region of China. They are a Turkish ethnic group that has been the subject of persecution in China. 

“I opened the Uyghur barbecue (in Shanghai) because Uyghur people cannot do business in Shanghai because they cannot rent space,” Duan said. “If they rent space, the police will find the landlord.”

Instead, Duan rented restaurant space in his name and hired Uyghur workers. There, Duan learned the secret to perfectly seasoned Uyghur-style barbeque. After just three days of business, police visited the restaurant. Duan said he fended off the police for a time, but after three months, he had to either close the shop or fire the Uyghur workers.

“I just wanted to help the Uyghur people,” Duan said. “If no Uyghur people (worked) for me, (there was) no meaning, so I sold (the restaurant).”

Soon after selling the restaurant, the world locked down due to COVID-19. Due to the city’s population of over 20 million residents, Duan said he stayed inside for 72 days straight before he eventually made the decision to leave Shanghai.

Last August, Duan came to the United States seeking asylum, leaving his wife and son at home in Shanghai. After hopping from San Antonio to Boston, Duan finally settled in Austin for the famous barbeque scene. Duan opened his barbeque stand as a tribute to the Uyghur, naming it Camino Alamo BBQ. To him, it means “the road to freedom.”

The smell of the food seems to float down Guadalupe Street, attracting customers as they pass. Economics masters student Kevin Yu said he likes to come by the stand for tasty snacks and good service.

“It’s like real, authentic Chinese barbecue,” Yu said. “Especially in the West North part. It’s very spicy and juicy.”

Additionally, the atmosphere of the shop must not be ignored, with Duan’s welcoming personality elevating the customer experience. Austinite Dan Pyatetsky said he heard about the restaurant online and wanted to give it a try.

“(He is a) super nice guy,” Pyatetsky said. “Clearly, he just moved here and started a business, so it’s cool to see.”

In the future, Duan said he hopes to move his business into a food truck near his current location.

“I don’t want a lot of money,” Duan said. “I see success if I have the business and I can serve the customers and they feel (the food is) good.”


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