If 2016 feels like it's been the year of barbecue, just wait: there are at least two more spots that will open before the end of summer. The first one is Barabicu Smokehouse, and it should begin serving smoked meats this August from its retail spot in Parma, near the intersection of Ridge and Snow roads.
“Barabicu is the Taino word for secret fire pit,” explains owner Jon Ashton, referring to the indigenous people of the Caribbean. “They were the first to barbecue. When they came over and met the Seminole Indians for the first time, I imagine they had one hell of a party.”
Ashton and his partner Danny Cassano originally started this project three year ago when they attempted to open Nana's Southside BBQ in the old Rodeo Bar spot in Tremont. That restaurant stalled and, ultimately, flamed out.
“It was definitely an obstacle we had to overcome,” Ashton says. “We decided to wait until we had the money to do it ourselves. For the amount of money we were messing with we had to go with something smaller to start.”
The building is at 5767 Ridge Road and parked out back is a beefy trailer-mounted Southern Pride offset smoker – a stick-burner fueled by hickory, mesquite and fruitwood. As for the style of barbecue that customers can look forward to, Ashton says to expect a variety.
“When we did the ‘Great Food Truck Race,’ the whole line of the show went down along the southern part of the United States,” Ashton, then a part of the Let There Be Bacon truck, explains. “We were fortunate to stop in Austin, Oklahoma City, and St. Louis, so we got exposed to a whole bunch of different barbecue in different places really fast.”
Ashton says that their favorite stops and styles invariably were the ones that did things simply, allowing the meat to shine. Meaty St. Louis-style ribs with a sticky-sweet sauce; Texas-style beef brisket with burnt ends; Southern-style pulled pork. Whole smoked, jerk-style chickens will be on the menu, as will a variety of sausages filled with lamb, pork, beef or chicken depending on the day. Guests can also look forward to special “competition-style” chicken thighs, a labor-intensive procedure that involves deboning the meat, defatting the skin, and blasting the finished product with a blowtorch to crisp it up.
“It’s kind of like picking up a piece of chicken candy,” he says.
Barabicu will begin life mostly as a carry-out joint, but will add seating down the road. As the business matures, Ashton, a veteran cook, hopes to concoct his own vinegar-based sauces, break down his own animals, and grind his own sausages.
Look for Barabicu to open in early August.
As for that second barbecue joint – for those paying attention – keep your eyes focused on this page.