Gerrard O’Farrell sparked up Barbeque venture Smokin Bones at the first Big Grill festival at Herbert Park in 2014. He talks to us about getting established on the Dublin scene and plans for further expansion ahead of their fifth birthday celebrations next month.
Gerrard, tell us more about your Smokin Bones venture.
Smokin Bones is an authentic American-style Barbecue restaurant situated in the heart of Temple Bar in Dublin. It is 100% Irish owned and is not a franchise bought in from America as many people think. We smoke all our meats over hickory wood for long periods (up to 12 hours) to ensure we get the best flavour from our meat.
How did the enterprise first get started?
I have 25+ years in the hospitality business and I wanted to offer customers a more relaxed casual eating experience while also keeping the price point at an affordable level. I decided to try out some ideas by selling genuine wood smoked baby back ribs at The Big Grill. We pitched up with our smokers on Thursday morning and didn’t leave the site until Sunday night. The feedback we received proved to us that there was a market for this product.
The next step was to travel to America for a long road trip to find out what makes a great genuine American Barbecue restaurant. After travelling from New York to deep Texas territory all our questions were answered, and I returned to Dublin and opened our first store on 34 Dame Street.
How challenging was it to get established on the Dublin scene?
The first few years were difficult as this type of smoked barbecue was relatively new to the Irish customer. After extending the menu to include burgers and wings, the Smokin Bones brand quickly got recognition and our repeat customers continued to grow. After the second year Michael Pivnik joined the company and brought with him an extensive amount of experience having worked at Kc Peaches and Camille. Michael was promoted to Chief Operations Officer and a director of the company in 2018. His sons Alex and Bartosz both work regularly in our new Temple Bar restaurant.
What can people expect from a Smokin Bones Experience?
Smokin Bones is now a recognised brand in the Dublin BBQ scene, cooking the old school way with wood and time. Working closely with our suppliers, our head chef Miguel Olivares has helped to keep our menus up to date by introducing new items all the time. Our signature hot sauce “Feckin Hot” has divided our customers. Americans, Mexicans and people from Chile all love the sauce. However, we always get a guy who is reduced to tears after only two chicken wings!
How has the business developed over the past few years?
In December 2018 we opened in Temple Bar. We employ 30 people on average and are looking for more sites to open. Over the last two years we have operated a franchise with The Wiley Fox bar on Eden Quay. Our Temple Bar restaurant is located on Essex Street East, and it’s an ideal location for a pre or post gig bite with so many great venues in the area. We also have an upstairs dining room which is very popular for large group bookings and private hire.
Talk to us about the menu. What’s your own favourite item?
We are always looking for new items to put on our menu and new cuts of meat to smoke.
At present my favourite is our beef brisket. We took a long time sourcing the best quality of beef and it has paid off. Niall from Quigley’s Meats in Cork supplies us with a consistently high quality Irish Hereford beef brisket.
What kinds of things are you planning to introduce over the next while?
I am looking forward to introducing our ‘Dinosaur Irish Beef Rib’ onto the menu. Cooked over Hickory wood smoke for 9 hours and served with a side of pepper or Memphis barbecue sauce it really does fall off the bone. We are also looking at introducing a great turkey burger made after a lot of work with a local butcher, and developing some new ideas on our healthy option choices.
34 Essex Street East, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
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