It’s not often that you see a restaurant sign promoting barbecue, steaks, donuts and pancakes.
Would the combo succeed?
It’s a reasonable question, given that Rosenfeld’s Deli/Big Fish Market did not last a year in the same Plaza III location.
But judging by the crowded parking lot, particularly in the morning, the business—which includes a butcher shop—is off to a good start.
“The brunch and donuts have caught on like a firestorm,” says chef-owner David Wiederholt.
The north Wilmington location is his third. The other two are in Swedesboro and Mullica Hill, New Jersey.
Delaware gives 322 BBQ a distinct advantage.
From fine dining to barbecue
Wiederholt, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, has an impressive resume peppered with well-known Philly restaurants, including Bleu, Neil Stein’s groundbreaking establishment.
From 2010 to 2013, he was executive chef and operating partner at The Capital Grille. But I
2014, he started David & Sons Meats in Swedesboro with a silent partner in the meatpacking industry.
“The butcher shop fell into place,” Wiederholt said.
With his culinary background, he soon added barbecue to David & Sons Meat Shop & More. Since the name confused some customers, the shop morphed into 322 BBQ. (U.S. 322 crosses New Jersey and through Swedesboro and Mullica Hill en route to Atlantic City.)
BBQ, brisket and breakfast
It’s a long jump from beef to donuts.
But when Wiederholt explained it, it was a logical one. Since smoked meats are a breakfast staple, the Mullica Hill location began featuring brunch.
“It was extensive, and everybody loved it,” he recalled. “But then COVID hit, and restaurants couldn’t open. So, we killed brunch.”
After takeout containers and accessories piled up in the retail area, Wiederholt put his thinking cap on. “What can we do to make this space more productive?” he mused.
Any new offering couldn’t interfere with the activity in the busy kitchen. The answer: donuts.
The fast-growing sourdough in the recipe inspired another aha moment. “Let’s try pancakes!” he told his team. “So, we launched Hill Co. Donuts & Pancake House.”
That was more than a year ago, and Jersey customers embraced the additions.
Garden State to First State
Wiederholt’s wife has family in Delaware, and a friend told him about the Plaza III location that had housed the Rosenfeld’s Deli and Big Fish Market combo.
The former market and deli had retail space for the butcher shop business, which offers dry-aged steaks, fresh steaks, a freshly ground burger blend, poultry, pork and select seafood. The Delaware shop is the largest section of the three.
After meeting with Big Fish’s team, Wiederholt purchased the restaurant assets.
The north Wilmington site is the only 322 BBQ with a bar.
“The prohibitive costs of obtaining a liquor license in New Jersey makes this a unique feature for us in Delaware,” Wiederholt explained. It’s also the only one that doesn’t have a sales tax for customers.
The chef would like the bar area to become a community gathering spot for people who want a burger and brew, and the restaurant’s proximity to Bellefonte Brewing—which does not serve food—has helped.
The eatery gets so much traffic from the neighboring barbershop that 322 BBQ may offer a $50 gift certificate to the barber who sends it the most business.
Labor of love
The new restaurant is far from fast food.
Making the donuts is a two-day endeavor, and the popular Cuban sandwich contains pulled pork that 322 BBQ smoked.
“The Swiss cheese comes from someone else because I can only do so much,” Wiederholt quipped.
The price reflects the labor, but each week, 322 BBQ features a special burger for $9.99 versus $17. (During his 20-year stint in the City of Brotherly Love, Wiederholt’s burgers landed on “Best of” lists.)
Consider the bacon-beef burger, a short rib blend with ground bacon and cheddar cheese in the mix, more bacon and cheese on top and pickles, served on a brioche roll with everything bagel seasoning.
Wiederholt, who lives about 20 minutes from the Delaware store, has focused on the new operation.
However, he said, the secret to success is finding good people to run the restaurant when he is not on site.
“I worked for Danny Meyer years ago—before Shake Shack—and his mantra was respecting the food, respecting the employees and putting out the best possible product you can,” Wiederholt said. “The food speaks for itself.”
He knows some area diners are looking askance at the combo BBQ, butcher shop and breakfast spot, especially since the previous tenant was short-lived.
“I know who I am and what I’ve done,” he says. “I’m willing to go above and beyond. We’re nimble and small and determined.”
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