After the popular Foodstock event recently held in Somerset, food trucks are a hot way to get a bite to eat right now.
And while John Maxie and his family can certainly appreciate that way of doing business, they know there's still something to be said for the good ol', traditional sit-down restaurant.
Choo Choo "Q" BBQ is now open at the intersection of South U.S. 27 and the Ky. 914 bypass. It's a name that may be familiar to a number of Pulaski Countians, but this time, you won't have to move around to find their unique brand of barbecue goodness -- you'll know right where to go to find them, every time.
About four years ago, Maxie operated a food truck for Choo Choo "Q" BBQ locally. Before that, he operated John's Automotive, but came to realize his love for a good slab of smoked meats with the perfect sauce was an irresistible temptation.
"We stop and eat BBQ all the time -- if there's a smoker going, we stop," he said. "I just love all the different flavors."
The food truck was originally going to be "carnival-type food," he said -- set up at events and sell treats like funnel cakes and French fries.
"But a buddy of mine in Tennessee said, 'Why not do a BBQ truck? You eat more BBQ than anyone I've ever seen,'" recalled Maxie.
And so Maxie poured everything he had into this endeavor -- both in terms of his passion and his product.
"We put together three of our own sauces from scratch," he said. "I'm good with flavors. I messed with it and messed with it until I got it right. It took us a long time; we probably wasted 50 to 60 gallons of sauce perfecting it. (Saying,) 'No we're not gonna serve that until it's just right.'
"I didn't want to start with a second-rate sauce, something people won't remember," he added. "If people aren't going to remember you, then you aren't going to do well."
Maxie's keenness for sauces comes pouring out as he describes them.
"We've got a sweet and tangy sauce -- it's a thick, hearty sauce, almost like something you'd buy in the store," he said. "Then we've got a spicy sauce, same consistency as the the store and thickness, but with some spice to it, and a sweet Carolina sauce that's vinegar based. It's thinner, and has got a whole unique flavor to it. It's our best-selling sauce."
There are plenty of menu items to try those sauces on -- pulled pork, beef brisket, St. Louis ribs, steakburgers (including items like a Flaming Mignon burger, a chili cheese burger, and a BBQ smokehouse burger), grilled and smoked chicken, hot dogs and slaw dogs.
Choo Choo "Q" BBQ marks a triumphant return to Somerset for the Maxie family, and a second chance at the BBQ dream. Maxie got a job offer in Port Charlotte, Florida, and moved down there, selling the truck. But after two years, they found they missed home and came back to Pulaski County last August.
Rather than do the food truck thing again, they set up shop in the building that formerly housed another well-known barbecue business in this area -- Fatman's BBQ. Maxie pointed out that they have no affiliation with that former business, and are bringing their own brand of BBQ to that space now.
He also noted they may eventually consider getting another truck in the future, which will help with their catering efforts, but they're looking at opening up another restaurant in London.
Still, having people remember them from events like SomerSplash and bass tournaments where the old truck set up has helped create a buzz around this BBQ biz, even though it just opened over the past week.
"Lots of people know us from the food truck -- it's a unique name," he said, noting that the smoker they built back before even the truck was a reality resembled a steam engine. "We're getting a lot of comments, people leaving us reviews on Facebook. We're getting good reviews. You won't believe how many people see the sign and ask (if we're the same as the food truck). We say, 'Yeah,' and they say, 'We can't wait.'"