A Bermudian businessman has opened a barbecue restaurant with a blue-collar flavour — but gourmet ingredients and preparation.
Dale Lee, who spent more than 25 years working at a four-star restaurant in the US state of Rhode Island, launched The Pit Stop two weeks ago.
Mr Lee said: “The whole concept is simplicity — it’s a barbecue, not a fancy restaurant. The whole idea was to look like a horse barn.”
He added: “I like barbecue and that comes from my background in Rhode Island. Everything we sell, we make here — the sausages and the sauces don’t come from a jar. I even grow my own peppers.”
The menu features fresh ingredients, including home-smoked bacon, organic eggs from the US, as well as gourmet touches like Himalayan pink salt and organic red wine vinegar.
Mr Lee said: “We’re on South Shore on the busiest strip of road in Bermuda and our prices mean it gives more choice for the average working guy.
“Now we’re starting to see a lot of the working guys coming in.
“We’ve dispensed with the frills. I don’t care if someone isn’t wearing shoes or they’ve come in their bathing suit from the beach.”
The Pit Stop features panelling and a bar made from recycled pallets and a minimalist decor featuring exposed wooden beams, but with new fans and an audio system installed.
Mr Lee said he had the original idea for the restaurant, next to Sandpiper Guest Apartments in Warwick, more than a year ago — but it was put on hold as he took another job.
After six months, however, he realised he wanted to return to the restaurant trade and restarted negotiations on the premises, at the side of Sandpiper guest apartments, in January.
He explained: “I like the restaurant business — I’ve been doing it all my life and I graduated from hotel school.
“When you do something you really like, you’ll work a 14,15,16-hour day because you’re doing something you love.
“That’s the concept — we put a lot of pride and love in what we’re doing and that’s reflected in the our early Facebook ratings.”
Mr Lee said that, in the start-up phase, the restaurant was offering a range of sandwiches, including an already popular brisket sandwich, to allow the five-strong staff to train and learn the ropes, but that the menu would expand with time.
He added: “Starting from this week, we’re going to going to open for breakfast and basically do ‘build your own’.”
The breakfast menu will feature traditional favourites like eggs, bacon and pancakes.
Mr Lee said: “I want the customer to tell me what they want. If they want corned beef on the menu, they can have it.”
He added he had just returned from an educational tour in Texas organised by the Texas Beef Council, which he had applied for five years ago.
Mr Lee said: “They only give out 15-20 invitations a year.”
The trip included seminars at Texas Tech University at the animal science division learning about animal nutrition and its effects on meat.
Mr Lee said: “We were taught about flash freezing and frozen beef and we visited major farms and processing plants — and we ate in the best barbecue places around.
“Understanding the science behind it is what I learnt in Texas — there’s a huge difference between grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef, for example.”
He added: “Bermuda is a tough place to do business. It’s an island and word travels fast, good or bad, and Bermudians are very critical.
“They don’t mind spending money, but it’s got to be good and they know the difference between good quality and bad quality.
“I would rather cater to 50 people a day and make them all happy than to 75 to 100 and upset 20 of them — it’s not worth it for an extra few dollars.”