Pitmaster Ed Mitchell explains his passion for barbecue
Pitmaster Ed Mitchell’s barbecue is as elusive as it is legendary.
Mitchell, who is famous for smoking up some of the most renowned whole hog barbecue in the South, still finds himself without a restaurant. Ed Mitchell’s Q at the Creek, which was slated to be built in Brier Creek, hasn’t moved forward since being announced in late 2016. Ed Mitchell’s Q on Wheels, a 30-foot food truck/catering operation that launched about a year ago, has taken a backseat.
But there is one place to find Mitchell’s barbecue: online.
Mitchell and his son Ryan are selling their smoked and chopped barbecue and spareribs on the food marketplace site Goldbely.com. The meat is smoked in a small smokehouse in Micro and then shipped anywhere in the country.
Vish Panjwani, operator of TSNV Enterprises, confirmed that things had cooled off with the Mitchells for the Brier Creek project. Instead, he said his development group is now working on a Mellow Mushroom on Brier Creek Parkway. So far the land remains undeveloped.
Ryan Mitchell, who handles the marketing side of his father’s business, said their focus has been on building up the Mitchell barbecue brand rather than building a restaurant.
“Everything happened so quickly and the shipping business really took off,” Ryan Mitchell said. “We had the opportunity to put our barbecue on the national stage before any of the restaurant stuff came about, and it’s been a whirlwind to keep up with that.
“It’s been a 20-year journey for me in the restaurant business, and longer for my father,” he said. “Our brand isn’t something we’ve put 100 percent of our focus on. We’re thinking about merchandizing and branding as we’re thinking about a restaurant. It’s been a fun change up.”
Mitchell made a name for himself smoking whole hogs for his family’s Wilson grocery store, but later lost the business in 2004 over a tax dispute. He helped open two of the Triangle’s best known spots for barbecue in Raleigh and Durham’s The Pit restaurants, but later split with co-founder Greg Hatem. In 2014, Ed and Ryan Mitchell opened Que in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus, but closed it after a year, saying the space made it difficult to run a daily restaurant and also cater events.
In 2016, the Mitchells announced a new restaurant at Brier Creek and rolled out a catering/food truck to help build hype, but as of now that project appears stalled.
Ryan Mitchell said the restaurant may still materialize in Brier Creek, perhaps even sometime in 2018, but may wind up somewhere else in the Triangle.
Ryan Mitchell said he and his father have a deal to get their sauces and rubs into grocery stores and will continue smoking for Goldbely, hoping to add video look-ins to the Micro smokehouse and a way for customers to stop by and eat barbecue.
Selling online has been successful, Ryan Mitchell said, but it’s tough to replicate the experience of Eastern North Carolina barbecue when customers are paying shipping and handling, instead of sitting in a dining room.
So while there’s nothing concrete about a restaurant, and it could be in a number of corners in the Triangle, one day there will be another Ed Mitchell barbecue joint, his son said.
“Our heart belongs to the restaurant business,” Ryan Mitchell said. “There will be another Ed Mitchell restaurant, that’s for sure.”
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson