The smells of hand-rubbed, pit barbecue lured people off the street – and even out of their cars – when West Salem Barbecue opened with a full house on April 29.
The restaurant in the front portion of the former West Salem Body Shop near the corner of Main Street at Broad had people coming in from the time the garage door rolled up at 11 a.m. By the time of the 5:30 p.m. official ribbon cutting by the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce, every table, booth and barstool was occupied.
“We’ve had a wonderful time. The food is great,” said Dee King, a Chamber Ambassador, who was there with her husband, Fred King. They had a sampler plate with barbecued chicken, pork and brisket – the latter which they were talking to a friend.
“And one of the best things is we can walk here from home,” she added.
In addition to the locals, a couple from Dayville, Conn., stopped in for a meal after they noticed the sign: “Eat, dine and stay. Re-established 2018.” Tom and Helen Nowicki said they stopped in and liked the food, “We have a smokehouse where we live,” he said.
West Salem Barbecue is unique in that it shares a kitchen with El Jefe Taqueria, which opens off the back of the historic building. The sign refers to the restaurants as well as the 14 Air B&B rooms in the lofts upstairs.
“We’ve been busy since we opened the doors. We had a great day all day long,” said building General Manager Jo Jo Soprano, who lives in Salem with his wife.
He’s particularly proud of the slow-cooked meat, sides such as crispy smoked and roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon, and more. And the gluten-free buns. “You can eat our buns,” Soprano quipped.
The barbeque restaurant employs 30 and seats 78. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 until midnight. Soprano describes the meat as “South Carolina barbecue.” Cooks flavor it with a dry rub and serve with customers’ choice of sauces – a peppery vinegar-based one and a thicker, sweeter brown one. The restaurant serves bourbon, bottled local and regional beer, specialty drinks. It does takeout and accepts orders. The phone number is 540-404-3007, and website westsalemBBQ.com.
West Salem Barbecue is the latest to open in the repurposing, revitalization of downtown buildings. Salem City Council got an update from Economic Development Director Melinda Payne last Monday night at a work session before the regular meeting. More details on that, including a small grocery store downtown, will be in the May 9 Salem Times-Register.