Apr 18, 2016
BATAVIA — With a smoker cooking since morning, a liberal application of y’alls and a dozen pans of meats and sides, Waggin Wheel owners Dale Banfield and Heidi Richmond staked their claim Friday as Batavia’s destination for “real barbecue.”
The Park Road restaurant, which launches with a soft opening of lunches and dinners Monday, is authentic southern-style barbecue Banfield is borrowing from the restaurants he owned in Texas before moving back north.
“It’s all in the way the meat is prepared,” Banfield said as he and Richmond entertained a preview dinner. “Our meat has sat out there in the smoker since 8 a.m. with hickory wood, cherrywood on slow, low and smoke. There’s nothing like it.”
Waggin Wheel will specialize in high-end meats like Angus steaks and southern sauces.
Banfield said the difference was apparent in taste tests during the remodeling. He described knifes sinking through Angus steaks “like butter” after cooking low and slow. A piece of brisket pulled apart and shared by Chef Rob Rudnicki was a tender bite that left diners with the feeling of an injection of smoky flavor that lasted for a half-hour.
“A bite explodes with flavor,” Richmond said.
Dinners dug into brisket and steak, pork and smoked chicken wings, along with potato salad, mac and cheese and hand-cut fries. The full menu includes more meats, combinations and collard greens, cole slaw, baked yams and fried pickles, along with short-run specials Banfield said include many Texas favorites.
“Unless you’ve been down south you’ll never have had anything like it before,” he said.
Banfield and Richmond have been working to revitalize the former Ten Cent Millionaire since February. Friday’s tasting was for family and friends who lent support and understanding through the 15-hour days.
As the crowd quieted over hefty plates and bit of smoke wafted above, Richmond felt a sense of relief. She and Banfield met two years ago, and early on hatched ambitions of opening their own restaurant.
“We’re like brother and sister,” Richmond said. “We work well together, we yell at each other, but when we disagree we come to a compromise.”
She provided ideas and he a vision for the kitchen. They switched roles in developing a new pallet-wood bar that will be backed by an eight-keg draft system.
Waggin Wheel’s smoker, custom-built in Murfreesboro, Tenn., sits outside the restaurant on a mobile trailer. It can handle both a dinner rush and events like church picnics and grad parties. A permanent smoker is on the way. Banfield said it will have a rotisserie and will be stocked and start smoking at midnight for the next day’s lunches.
Going “slow and low” comes from evenly-heating a pan beneath grates holding up 400 pounds of meat from the wood fire at one end of the smoker. Smoke has to cross the length of the smoker from below and then double-back above the smoke on its way out.
Consuming the finished product goes a bit quicker.
Waggin Wheel, 8282 Park Road, is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call (585) 201-7680 or visit facebook.com/wagginwheelrestaurantlounge.
Jim Krencik, Batavia Daily News