Pigged out: How Paulie started small... and smoky
There's a new barbecue place on the way to Wintergreen– new, that is, compared to the one that's been pleasing palates for over 20 years. The venerable one, of course, is the Blue Ridge Pig, and the newbie is Paulie's Pig-Out, located on Route 151 across from the new elementary school. Truth be told, the Pig-Out opened two and a half years ago, August of 2009 to be more precise.
"I couldn't find a job," says self-effacing owner Paul Matheny, "so I opened this little place."
Little indeed, as this take-out-only restaurant is, as Matheny puts it, a "hole in the wall." But like the original McDonald's in Southern California, it offers a menu elegant in its simplicity: ribs, chicken, pork barbecue, and catfish.
And like that original McDonald's, it's fast. An unannounced reporter's visit required no more than two minutes for two barbecue sandwiches.
It turns out that Matheny used to work with the dean of Charlottesville barbecue scene, Jinx Kern, when the two were making upscale food at the Gaslight Restaurant in the 1980s. Jinx concedes that he hasn't yet sampled Paulie's fare, but he holds warm memories.
"He's a good kid, and he made me laugh," remembers Kern, owner of Jinx's Pits-Top near downtown.
Matheny, who turns 49 soon, says he learned how to cook comfort food from his grandmother. His father constructed his steel smoker, and one day when he had just opened, Matheny dragged it out front. The scents wafted over the highway.
"Within 30 minutes we had about 10 people," says Matheny. "It was the best marketing thing I could have done, and it was an accident."
Paulie's is open most afternoons, but a recent answering-machine message indicates an occasional early closure when the food sells out. Ah, the price of smoky success.Read more on: Paulie's Pig-Out