Authentic Southern BBQ is on the menu at Whole Hog Café NY, a new fast casual restaurant in Yonkers. That means ribs, pulled pork chicken, brisket, smoked sausage and more, all served with a choice of one of the restaurants six special sauces, which range from tomato-based to mustard-based and vinegar, in mild, sweet and spicy versions. Our No. 3 (tangy and spicy) and No. 5 (sweet) sauces are, so far, proving most popular.
The 22-seat spot, in what had been a former Stride Rite, opened Oct. 1, 2020. It is the first New York state location for the Arkansas-based company. (There are multiple eateries throughout Arkansas, Missouri, New Jersey and New Mexico.)
The owners had long been in the market for a franchise that would bring something new to Weschester. They didn't want to do burgers because there's a lot of burger restaurants. Eventually, they decided on barbecue. One, because they love it and two, because the area was lacking barbecue restaurants. Still, the road to this franchise — and this location — took a while.
The Owners began doing their research in 2014, attending franchise conferences and traveling to different states, in an effort to find the perfect restaurant. They were first introduced to Whole Hog in late 2015 and, after visiting their locations and tasting their food, signed the contract in 2016. Then, it became a matter of where to open. That took a year, as well and close to another year in construction and permits.
They were all set to open in April 2020 when the pandemic arrived. Now, after being delayed six months, they were eager to share the Whole Hog experience with the community.
What makes the food special, according to the owners, is that the brisket and pork butts are slow cooked with red oak wood for 12 to 16 hours at 230 degrees, which gives them a rich, bold flavor. Similarly, the ribs are cooked four to six hours, so they maintain a little resistance and are juicy and tender.
In addition to the meat options, there's a host of sides including baked beans, mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, green beans, salad and fries. Most meals also come with cornbread. The restaurant also does party platters to go.
The trophies around the restaurant tell the story. The Whole Hog Cafe evolved from “a hobby that got out of hand.” When Whole Hog founders Mike “Sarge” Davis, Ron Blasingame, and Steve Lucchi entered the 2000 Memphis-in-May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, they knew their rib recipe was something special. Apparently, the judges agreed, and their team – appropriately named “The Southern Gentlemen’s Culinary Society” -- took home a 2nd place trophy that year. Two years later, they were back on top – this time with two competition teams. The “Whole Hog Cafe” team took another 2nd Place in the ‘Ribs’ category, and the “Southern Gentlemen” came out as World Champions, winning 1st Place in the ‘Whole Hog’ division.
Having seen so much success on the competition barbecue circuit, the Southern Gentlemen decided to see if anybody would buy their barbecue, and so they set up a small concession trailer in a parking lot in their hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. The venture was an instant success, giving Ron, Sarge, and Steve the confidence to take a giant leap and open The Whole Hog Cafe.