Red Boar Bar-B-Que combines one man's home-cooked love of barbecuing with another's knowledge of the restaurant business.
Owners Curtis Starling and Stacy Underwood opened Sept. 12 in the heart of Brooklet.
Starling previously lived in Effingham County, where he worked in construction and operated a part-time catering business reaching from the Rincon area into Savannah.
"I've been cooking barbecue as a hobby since I was a kid," he said.
Starling built a trailer-mounted smoker to take to gatherings of friends and family and for catering jobs. He also learned to make his own signature sauce and dry rubs. The recipes, of course, are secrets.
Thinking to go pro, Starling already had a restaurant business in mind when he met Underwood about six months ago. Underwood has owned and operated Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn, on U.S. Highway 301 South of Statesboro, for 17 years and also owns Ronnie's, a hamburger, chicken finger and milkshake place on Dean Forest Road in Savannah.
With a barbecue trailer of his own, Underwood had been doing a lot of catering with barbecue from Uncle Shug's, he said. They started talking and found that they both had ideas for opening a restaurant in Brooklet.
"Curtis is real passionate about his barbecue," Underwood said. "He's as passionate about barbecue as I am about everything else in the restaurant business."
So they formed a partnership. Starling moved to Bulloch County to run Red Boar - the name was his idea - while Underwood continues his work at Uncle Shug's. So Starling is what might be called Red Boar's managing partner, but his preferred job title is pit master.
The building, on U.S. Highway 80 across from Ken's IGA, housed several eateries in the past, most recently a seafood restaurant, but was vacant for some time. Starling and Underwood repainted the exterior and did some redecorating inside, such as adding galvanized steel wainscoting to the wooden walls and other touches to make the place say barbecue.
But their biggest innovation was to build a smokehouse out back.
"We offer old-fashioned barbecue here," Starling said. "We cook fresh every day, and the only thing we use for fuel is firewood."
Not surprisingly, pork barbecue gets top billing at a place called Red Boar. "Smokehouse ribs," a full pound of spareribs, occupy the priciest plate on the menu, at $10.99. But there's also Texas style - meaning smoked and then sliced - beef brisket, as well as smoked chicken and hamburgers. They plan to take orders to smoke whole hams and turkeys for the holidays.
Side dishes are all made fresh every day, Starling said. Sides include Brunswick stew, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and fresh-cut French fries.
The only thing that's fried here is the hand-cut French fries, and we cut them twice a day," he said. "But everything else - all the ribs, chicken, Boston butts - everything's cooked on the smoker every morning. We get up early and make a long day of it."
The restaurant has a functional refrigerator to hold fresh ingredients. But the freezer is unplugged, he said, because nothing Red Boar uses is frozen. Starling and crew also hand chop the barbecue every day.
The most general advice from the experienced restaurateur in the partnership is simple.
"You've just got to be consistent," Underwood said. "With good food, good service, you've got to succeed. I mean, those are the key elements."
The partners say that Red Boar Bar-B-Que is off to a strong start, filling up at lunch and dinner. The restaurant currently employs nine people. Red Boar is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Both Red Boar and Uncle Shug's continue to offer catering. But now, the barbecue catering will be based at Red Boar with its smokehouse, Underwood said, while Uncle Shug's will handle catering jobs involving its specialty, fried chicken.
With his past cooking activities, pit master Starling has been involved in a few local, fundraiser-type barbecue contests. But he said he would love to represent Red Boar at some big contests in the future. And he hopes to retire here, he said, "in about 30 more years."