Pat and Mike Joyce offer Bar-B-Cones from their South Side BBQ Co. truck.
As the food truck trend has rolled its way across the country, many an upstart chef has used a truck to propel him- or herself to a brick-and-mortar venue.
Typically, however, it does not entail an established restaurateur buying a truck with an altogether different theme and then changing his existing restaurant accordingly, but that is the unorthodox path that Pat Joyce will take next month when he shuts down his long-running 17th St. Cafe in the South Side and rechristens it the South Side BBQ Co.
“I haven’t had this kind of spark in years,” Mr. Joyce said of the impending excitement of his new venture, which will be heavy on the three B’s: barbecue, beer and bourbon.
Last fall, sightings of the South Side BBQ Co.’s “CarnivoreMobile” began around Pittsburgh, and Mr. Joyce has developed both a following and a novel menu including items such as the Redneck Club sandwich (pulled pork and brisket) and the Bar-B-Cone: a large waffle cone filled with mac-and-cheese, pulled pork and Carolina cole slaw.
“I’m so excited the truck has been going off,” he said. “The reception has been overwhelming. It’s amazing how much people love it and are interacting with it."
The Cafe will close for business on July 3 and re-open at 4 p.m. the following Tuesday, July 8, with proceeds that evening going to the South Side-based Brashear Association, a neighborhood social-services organization.
Mr. Joyce -- with his wife, Brigitte, and brother Mike -- has run the cafe since 2001, when he took it over from the DeRoss family, who founded it in 1988. For several decades prior to that, dating back to the 1940s, the building was Bendick’s Tavern and a butcher shop before that. It was originally constructed as a single-family home in the 1880s.
He learned to appreciate and to cook what he calls “slow and low” Southern food while living in South Carolina.
Though the cafe’s menu was moderately priced Italian and American food in a more formal atmosphere, he said that he increasingly felt “in limbo” in the increasingly younger demographic in the South Side.
“We weren’t super high-end, but we weren’t low-end either,” he said, adding that while the South Side has a lot of dining options, it doesn’t have a place that strictly does barbecue.
“With change in the tide on the South Side, this seems like something people will want. A fun atmosphere that’s good for the neighborhood. People can embrace it.”
Dan Gigler photo