Dormont and Verona are each getting a new barbecue joint this fall — one in just a few weeks, and the other slated to open by Thanksgiving.
Go ahead: Cross a bridge, explore a new neighborhood. This food is worth the drive.
Paulie’s BBQ, Dormont
Michael Paul Chavis ignited his culinary career on the side of the road.
Several years ago, the lifelong barbecue fan decided to sell his own brand of mouth-watering eats, so he experimented with recipes. Then he set up a smoker on a parking pad outside of his Finleyville home and lit a match.
Right away, business was hot.
Chavis ran the takeout service al fresco for two summers before searching for a brick-and-mortar store. He found the perfect location at the corner of Potomac and Glenmore avenues in Dormont.
Set to open in September, the restaurant will have a simple menu packed with all your carnivore favorites: ribs, pulled pork, pork chops, brisket and wings. The meat is cooked over oak logs in that same hand-built smoker, which is now located behind the building.
Chavis uses a vinegar-based sauce and will serve meals on metal trays lined with butcher paper.
In addition to the barbecue, there will be burgers, salads, draft beer and a full bar. The spot will operate Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A roofer by trade, Chavis and his crew began gutting the former home audio store a year ago, opting for a rustic look with lots of exposed brickwork, wood and corrugated steel. A large skylight brightens the dining room. Customers can observe their food being prepared in the open kitchen, and they can even wander out back to check out the massive smoker in action.
Chavis says he’s working to obtain permits that will allow him to add outdoor seating and entertainment.
He’s excited to bring “real, stick-burner barbecue” to the South Hills.
Off the Rails BBQ, Verona
For months, owner Ken Shields has been converting an old gas station and used car lot on Allegheny River Boulevard into Off the Rails Barbeque & Drafthouse … all while maintaining a full-time IT job and running his mobile eatery.
He hopes to be open by Thanksgiving, serving St. Louis-style ribs and mac and cheese instead of the traditional turkey and stuffing.
Shields started making barbecue as a hobby several years ago. As his passion for this culinary art form grew, so did the equipment he used. He recently bought a rotisserie smoker that can handle up to 500 pounds of meat at a time.
He’s a regular fixture at Grist House Craft Brewery, where he sold pulled pork sandwiches from a pop-up tent before upgrading to a trailer. That mobile business will continue after the new brick-and-mortar shop opens.
For several years, Shields has been preparing food in a shared space rented from the Pittsburgh Pickle Company. Having his own digs will allow him to expand his menu to include more sides, desserts and chicken dishes.
When the fast-casual joint opens, folks will order at the counter. There will be indoor seating for 34 and a seasonal patio with room for another 50 to 60 patrons. There’s also a small bar with a 12-tap draft system. On warm days, Shields can open the garage door (a holdover from the building’s gas station days) to let the smell of barbecue fill the air.
The name Off the Rails is a nod to Verona’s railroad heritage and a reference to the company’s leap from mobile to stationary. And Oakmont resident, Shields is happy to have a brick-and-mortar location in the adjacent borough and hopes people from all over Pittsburgh will stop by to fuel up on good food.
Looking for more great barbecue? Read 12 great places to get luscious BBQ in Pittsburgh.