The force behind PK’s legendary Boondocks Restaurant and Bar
Story by Steve Nussbaum | Photos by Kim Nussbaum

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
Pictured above:  John and Jan Verdi, owners of Boondocks Restaurant and Bar at their PK Lakefront home.

Not long ago, Jan Verdi was in the airport in Tampa, Florida, when someone yelled out to her: “Hey, Miss Boondocks!â€

On other occasions, she’s had people come up to her while she’s been out shopping to say, “Hey, remember me? We ate at Boondocks when we were at PK a few years ago.â€

To those folks, she said she just smiled and said, “Come back and see us.â€

She and her husband, John Verdi, have been running the Boondocks Restaurant and Bar since 2010, and have owned it since 2015.

Boondocks, the lake bar located on the east side of Possum Kingdom Lake on FM 2353, has been the go-to place for locals and weekenders for years. The establishment does have a fun lake vibe and décor, but the real secret to its success may just be the longtime owners themselves.

The Verdis’ approach to business might go unnoticed by some, but it’s appreciated by many, and it can be summed up in one word: consistency. Boondocks is open every day of the year except Christmas and New Year’s Day, and the couple believes that if you provide good service and good food, people will support you.

Boondock’s has an atmosphere that resembles the iconic television show “Cheers†for many locals. One local customer, Bill Story, is one of those regulars.

“I come in on days that end in ‘Y,’ †he said.

He said he doesn’t always order a meal when he visits, but he has his spot at the bar to enjoy a beer, and there are many other customers who do the same.

Staffing is a challenge for all businesses, but the Verdis do have a core of longtime employees who have been with them for years, and some of them shared words of praise about their employers.

“John and Jan are wonderful people,†said Tiffany Smart, who’s worked at Boondocks for the past nine years. “I love working with them.â€

Eleven-year Boondocks employee Jessica Lee got engaged at a Halloween party at the restaurant, and Jan Verdi was instrumental in helping organize that surprise. Lee added that the Verdis are like parents to her.

When a recent ice storm hit the area, the couple told their staff members to go raid the pantry at Boondocks if they needed food, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they continued to make sure their employees were paid. And when an employee is ill, Jan Verdi makes sure that employee has whatever is needed to get better.

Baylee Marshall, who’s been a Boondocks employee for a little over a year, is also working on a modeling career, and she said the Verdis have been very supportive of her goals, including scheduling time off to attend the recent New York Fashion Week and the upcoming fashion week in Austin.

Whether they’ve worked at Boondocks for 11 years, like John Wilson has, or just a few months, the staff members agreed that the Verdis are great employers, with the favorite lake weekend being Mardi Gras and the Memorial Day weekend usually the busiest.

The Verdis met when they were in their 20s. Jan Verdi was a hairdresser by day and a bartender in the evenings, while John Verdi was her boss at a restaurant in Florida where she bartended.

The couple runs Boondocks as a team, with John Verdi working during the days, taking care of the bills, deposits and day shift. He and his best friend, John Nash, go to Restaurant Depot every week for supplies and handpick all the meat and vegetables for freshness.

Jan Verdi works the evenings, and said she gets home many nights between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. She makes sure the establishment is ready for the next day with all the stocking and cleaning that must be done daily – and she said she’s picky about that.

John Verdi said he and Nash enjoy their weekly trips to Fort Worth for supplies. He said his friend used to own a grocery store out at the lake and enjoys making the trip with him.

Jan Verdi added that Nash loves helping others. When Nash found out the women at the bank couldn’t leave for lunch, he began to order, pay for and deliver their lunches to the bank.

“Nash has helped many at the lake, and the two Johns are lucky to have each other as friends,†she said.

Boondocks has experienced double-digit growth in the past few years, which can be attributed to the hard-working staff and owners. John Verdi said he and his wife are always open to new ideas, but there are some things that are non-negotiable. For example: All the hamburger patties at Boondocks are hand-patted, and the employees make the onion rings and chips from scratch. They also cook their own roasts and prime rib for all their beef sandwiches, and hand-cut all the chicken strips from boneless chicken breasts. The famous Boondocks salad bar, managed with pride by Glenda Richey, is always fresh, cold and fun to look at in the iced-down canoe.

It turns out that consistency matters.

The crowd at Boondocks comes from all walks of life, and the patrons are there for one thing: to have a good time. The Verdis have made the events at Boondocks famous, and every year they host a Thanksgiving dinner for whoever shows up. They said that not everyone has a place to go on Thanksgiving, so they host their own gathering at the restaurant, with the Verdis – and sometimes their family – waiting tables and serving as bartenders. One year more than 100 people showed up, they said.

Every year the Verdis also host a Christmas party for their customers. All the food and drinks are free for this huge event, and it’s catered by local restaurants. The event started out with employees inviting their families and favorite customers, and it turned out that they have a lot of favorite customers. The employees work for tips only that night, and the event serves as a way to give back to the community.

Jan Verdi added that Boondocks has served as a venue for weddings and wakes as well.

The Verdis’ path to Possum Kingdom Lake has taken many turns. Back in 2007, the couple were living in Midlothian, Texas, where they owned a mobile home business, buying, selling and delivering mobile homes for customers. One day their son, Anthony, traveled to Possum Kingdom Lake and told his dad how beautiful it was.

John Verdi began to do a little online research and spotted a house across from the airport. John called local real estate agent Valerie Klapper to ask how far away the house was from the airport.

“About 45 seconds,†she said.

John, a pilot, responded: “OK, I’m on my way.â€

He made the short flight from Midlothian to Possum Kingdom to look at the house, then flew back and told his wife what he had found.

The original home on the Airport Road property was a small cabin, so they tore it down and put a mobile home where it had stood.

The couple’s Midlothian home was part of an airport community, and they did a lot of entertaining in their backyard, which featured a swimming pool, an outdoor kitchen and an airplane hangar. They said their friends always told them they should open a restaurant, so they ended up selling their business in Midlothian and moving to Possum Kingdom full time.

The Verdis opened up a small restaurant, called The Stuffed Olive, on FM 2353 in the former Patsy’s Cactus Flower location. A few months after opening The Stuffed Olive, the owners of Boondocks asked if they would be interested in managing their business. The Verdis managed Boondocks for five years, but in 2015 they decided they wanted to be closer to their children and grandchildren, so they sold their house on Airport Road.

Days after selling their home, they were given the opportunity to buy Boondocks, to which John Verdi turned to his wife and asked, “What else are we going to do?â€

The couple found another home on the lake, but the lake was way down at the time, and even though the property was considered “lakefront,†the water was about three football fields away from the house. Two weeks after they bought Boondocks, though, it started raining and the lake filled back up, bringing the shoreline to within 200 feet of their back door.

The Verdis have been married for 43 years and have three children, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and four recently adopted great-grandchildren. John Verdi sold his plane a few months ago, and when he and his wife aren’t working at Boondocks, they enjoy their patio view and traveling in their RV with their dog, Boon. So far, though the couple has no plan to slow down or change what they’re doing.

Boondocks isn’t just a part of many people’s memorable stays at PK; under the ownership of John and Jan Verdi, it’s also a place that locals call home.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
John and Jan Verdi at home in their kitchen.
A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
John and Jan Verdi behind the bar at Boondocks, a local favorite.
A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
Pictured left to right:  John Nash and John Verdi.  The two Johns are longtime friends and enjoy traveling together to Fort Worth on a weekly basis for supplies.  Their weekly trip to Restaurant Depot is always fun for them, they enjoy picking out all the fresh vegetables and meats for the restaurant.
A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
John and Jan Verdi’s secret toSuccess is consistency.
A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
The famous Boondocks salad bar is managed with pride by Glenda Richey. You’ll always find the salad bar to be fresh, cold, and fun to look at in the iced-down canoe.