Southern Indiana Eats 'n Treats - Floyd County Feature March 2015: Shawn's Southern BBQ
Shawn Pitts was encouraged by family, friends, and a taste professional to open his own hybrid Tennessee style Southern BBQ restaurant. They believed his homemade BBQ sauce was that good. After entering in a few local contests, Pitts then too realized his BBQ might actually be something people enjoyed and wanted. He placed in two out of four categories in the 2011 Smokin’ on the River BBQ competition. He also won the People’s Choice Award and the Judge’s Choice Award in the Horseshoe Casino BBQ Battle in 2014. He decided to take their advice and in April 2014, he opened “Shawn’s Southern BBQ” on State St. in New Albany.
The tangy, sweet and savory flavor of his BBQ sauce is what draws in his crowd, but not before they see the big smoker in the back. Pitts slow cooks all his meats to perfection in his rustic iron smoker, even his beans are cooked in there to taste deliciously smokey. He offers pulled pork, ribs, chicken breasts and legs, as well as potato salad, collard greens, and coleslaw to pair with any BBQ meat. Pitts prides himself for making all of his own rubs and sauces. He buys local produce and uses a local meat supplier. Pitts said the only secret to share was he always smokes his meat over both hickory and cherry wood.
“The pulled pork is the number one seller followed closely by the ribs. All the customers are ordering them, somedays I can’t keep up. People say they haven’t had ribs as tender and juicy as mine. The number one way to tell if ribs are slow cooked if there isn’t any meat left on the bones,” Pitts said.
Not only does he manage his restaurant, he also offers a catering service as well. Graduation parties, weddings, family reunions, you name it, he can do it, small or large, accommodating up to 400 people. He will make your Southern styled party a hit with his mouth watering BBQ. His catering menu is based on a custom menu you and him create. Offering more complex items to ensure you get everything you would want and more, like wings and corn on the cob.
Just shy of being opened for a year, Pitts said he’s either a genius or a fool but even though he’s not rich, he’s paying the bills. Him and his daughter Stacy work together everyday to open and operate their restaurant. From cooking and cleaning, to taking orders and payment, the pair have a pretty solid operating system.
Learning his business techniques from an early age by his father who owned his own restaurant in the 70’s called Erv’s Little Bowl, where they served soul food. Pitts helped out as much as he could growing up, by tearing down boxes or sweeping, he said he enjoyed the time he had there. Prior to owning his BBQ place, Pitts taught kids to play guitar and bass at Jimmy’s and Mom’s Music for 13 years, he still plays guitar 4-6 nights a week at a little bar in Louisville. After all, music was his first passion.
Due to his year of success, Pitts is planning on entering more local BBQ competitions to get his name out there, as well as bottling and selling his homemade rubs and sauces. He see’s himself in the longer run broadening his menu and investing in more advertising and signage. Down the road he’d love it if he could retire happily and pass his restaurant down to one of his five daughters.
Pitts believes that without Facebook, and the reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Urbanspoon his business wouldn’t be where it is today. He utilizes Facebook the most to interact with new and current customers by offering occasional deals, and pictures to tempt you to order takeout. If you haven't liked Shawn’s BBQ on Facebook yet, make sure you do and watch for his specials: www.facebook.com/ShawnsSouthernBbq
“Our bbq does not taste like chain bbq, and if you don’t see a smoker in the back then it’s not real bbq. One bite of mine and you’ll taste the difference,” Pitts said.
Shawn’s Southern BBQ is open Tuesday - Saturday from 11:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Stop in for a leg and two sides for $3.99 today or on Friday’s only for Brisket.
Shawn’s Southern BBQ
822 State Street
New Albany, IN 47150