First thing in the morning and last thing at night, Chuck Baker – the owner of Lynchburg’s newest restaurant, Barrelhouse BBQ –heads into a small smokehouse to the right of his restaurant to cook. In the evening, he throws on several Boston butts to be used in pulled pork for the next day. Each morning, he tosses on racks of pork ribs and whole chickens, so they will be ready when the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. It’s this kind of made-fresh-daily mentality that makes Barrelhouse stand out.
Nestled between the historic Lynchburg Square and the Mulberry Creek, Barrelhouse BBQ occupies a long narrow, building that Baker spent over a year renovating.
“I did everything pretty much myself,” he boasts. “I handmade all the furniture out of Jack Daniel barrels. I made that chair you’re sitting in.”
Inside 10-12 tables line the walls, which are covered in all things Jack Daniel, country music and Dixie. Posters from the Jack Daniel World Invita-tional Barbecue, autographed photos of George Jones, vintage metal signs and relics of rural life blend together to create a shrine to southern life. Outside on the patio, there’s seating for at least a dozen more.
During The News’ visit last Thursday, Baker drifted from one table to the next – checking in to make sure everyone was happy. When Baker asked a pair of women from the Mulberry area if they’d like to have dessert the duo gave two distinctly opposite answers.
“What kind of cake?” says the first lady.
“No, I’m good,” says the other.
“Oh never mind,” the first one chimes back in. “I don’t need it.”
Sensing that the first woman’s need to be polite was overriding her sweet tooth, Baker insists.
“Nope, you’re having a piece of that cake and that’s all there is to it,” he says as he instructs one of the servers to bring the lady a slice … on the house.
It’s clear by the lingering conversations that Baker takes the time to have with each table that he’s interested in his guests. He wants them to enjoy the food and feel welcome. And the guests respond in kind.
“That’s some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had,” says James Bell. James and his family – wife, Ellen and daughter, Robin – stumbled upon Barrlehouse based on a local’s recommendation. The trio, from Cummings, Ga., decided to stop in for a quick bite on their way to the Distillery.
“We’ll definitely be back,” says Ellen.
Pork and Chicken and Ribs … Oh My
The Barrelhouse menu consists of everything you’d expect to find in a traditional barbecue joint – a fact emphasized during our visit by the eye-rolls a British trio received when they pop in to ask if there is “any thing for a vegetarian” on the menu. The waitress smiles politely as she delivers the bad news. One guest says under her breath, “It’s a barbecue place. They barbecue meat.” The others diners giggle.
Racks of pork ribs, whole smoked chickens and pulled pork are the main attraction. These are served with traditional sides like potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans and good old-fashioned Lays potato chips. They also offer ribeye steak sandwiches, hamburgers, hot-dogs, and a smoked chicken salad. The dessert menu changes daily with selections like Red Velvet and strawberry cake. All are homemade.
The News sampled just a little bit of just about everything. We ordered a half rack of ribs, half a chicken, pulled pork sandwich, potato salad, cole slaw and baked beans. All three meat dishes were served piping hot as if they’d just been pulled off the smoker. The meat tasted moist and juicy and literally fell off the bone.
The restaurant serves two barbecue sauces: Barrelhouse BBQ sauce and All Jacked Up sauce. Like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, the two could not be more different. The dark brick red Barrelhouse sauce tastes sweet and tangy with visible herbs and spices floating in the bottle. It’s mild. On the other hand, the All Jacked Up sauce packs a punch. It’s a hot, spicy and vinegar-based sauce that’s clear with pockets of hot sauce. Their only common denominator is that they are both made with just a little of the local product.
We ended our meal with a heaping slice of fresh-baked strawberry cake with strawberry icing, which was made fresh that morning by Baker’s girlfriend, Sandy Baker (no relation).
Local Boy Making Good
Baker is a native of Moore County who attended Moore County High School and played on the Raider football team. He owns the restaurant with his business partner, D.M. Burnam of Georgia, who he met through local singer-songwriter Randy Howard.
The restaurant is located at 105 Mechanic Street South (behind the IBIS Building) and is open Monday through Thurs-day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and closed on Sundays. The menu is available for dine in or carry out. For more information, call 759-5760.