After opening more than a dozen locations in the metropolitan area and overseas, Mighty Quinn’s, one of the City’s premier barbecue spots, has opened in Garden City. The franchise location, the company’s first, took over what used to be Wild Fig on Franklin Avenue and transformed it beyond recognition.
When its glass-paned garage door is rolled up, the rustic-industrial-chic dining room is completely open to the wide sidewalk, where tables are also set up. A full bar with TVs showing sports is at the back of the room; customers need to pass beneath the neon BBQ sign to order food from a Chipotle-style point-and-choose line. (This area abuts a parking area where there are more outdoor tables.)
Chipotle-style “quick-serve” may be the hottest trend in restaurants, but it’s the original setup for barbecue joints. “In Texas, in the South,” said franchise owner Jason Wotman, “you walk up to the counter, talk to the guy with the big cleaver, and decide what you’re going to eat.”
Split wood and big, black smokers are in full view of the customers at Mighty Quinn’s. The smoked meats, whose style Wotman characterized as "Texalina," include brisket, burnt ends (of brisket), pulled pork, spare ribs, the signature “brontosaurus rib,” (on-the-bone short rib), wings, half chickens and, a new one on me, brisket sausage, whose taste falls somewhere between kielbasa and a great burger. Meats are available in single servings ($8.95 to $11.75), by the pound ($24.50 to $29) in combo platters and family meals and even, with three sides, in rice bowls.
About those sides: they are combination of traditional (mac and cheese made with cavatappi and four cheese, sweet potato casserole with maple and pecans, corn fritters) and contemporary (kale salad, Brussels sprouts with soy vinaigrette, broccoli salad with bacon and almonds). There’s also cornbread, fries (plain, sweet-potato, or “dirty,” smothered with burnt ends, chile-lime sauce and onions). For dessert, Wotman has “imported” cookies and pies from Centerport’s exuberant Hometown Bake Shop.
Wotman, who grew up in Great Neck, was first introduced to barbecue while attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville and was hooked from the first bite. He returned to New York in 2008 and, throughout a career in corporate tech, finance, logistics and e-commerce, he could not get the scent of wood smoke out of his head. When Mighty Quinn’s announced that it planned to franchise, Wotman was the first to sign up. He left his last corporate job in February 2019 and signed the Garden City lease in August of that year.
Wotman was confident he had the business chops but, “did not know how to run a top-flight barbecue operation.” So he trained for three months at Mighty Quinn’s original location, in the East Village, “doing every job there is.” His barbecue education, he said, “has been like drinking from a fire hose. It’s learning how to make the smoker schedules, how to manipulate rub quantities, how the fire should look, how to know that the meat is done — how much bend and pull in the meat. The meat may be cooked, but an extra ten minutes can take it to another level.”
He hired an experienced pitmaster, Richard Pena, formerly of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and for the last three weeks, smoker-in-chief Hugh Mangum has been working with the crew. (Mangum founded Mighty Quinn’s in 2012 with his stepbrother Micha Magid, and Micha’s brother-in-law, Christos Gourmos.)
Wotman holds the franchise rights to Nassau and northwest Suffolk. He hopes to open satellites east and south of Garden City but, for now, he’s concentrating on navigating the shoals of COVID-19. “Initially I was focused on so many aspects of the business,” he said “the quality of our core product, having a nice dining room and a sports bar, doing takeout, catering and delivery. Now, of course, the last three are going to be key.” (Delivery should be coming in the next few weeks.)
Mighty Quinn’s is at 829 Franklin Ave., Garden City, 516-544-2844, mightyquinnsbbq.com.