Huffie’s Serves Up The Best In Q
Food. All you have to do is look at my expanding midsection and you will instantly know that, although I may not know the fanciest places to eat, I know the places that serve the down home cookin’ that you can only get from a family owned restaurant. Huffie’s Bar-B-Que, located at 925 McArthur Avenue, is one of those places. Now, I fully realize that describing any type of bar-b-que is tantamount to getting into a political argument with all sides taking up the cause of their own particular favorite, so I will avoid making any sweeping statement about it being the best bar-b-que in the city…even though it is.
Anyway, the secret is the method of preparing the ribs and the way that the bar-b-que sauce is created. Of course they did not tell me what went into the sauce, as they would have had to have killed me immediately afterward. Suffice it to say that the sauce is not too vinegary nor is it too overpowering. Some sauces strive too hard, covering up the taste of the meat with either a spicy heat or an overabundance of spices in general. Huffie’s is a perfect blend, allowing you to taste the preparation of the pork along with the rich tang of the sauce itself.
Huffie’s menu covers a broad range, taking in the Southern style favorites like fried okra, fried green tomatoes, greens and cornbread. Put that on as a side to your slab of ribs, pulled bar-b-que pork sandwich or whole fried catfish and you have yourself an incredibly satisfying meal. In recent years, they’ve added a lot of vegetarian items and heart friendly foods to the menu, such as salads, baked fish and vegetarian soups and beans. You can cap off that meal with a wide selection of pies and cheesecakes, especially their famous sweet potato pie with the crust still made with lard. Perhaps Dr. Oz might disapprove of the cholesterol count, but your palate will kick his Oprah lovin’ ass for saying such disparaging comments about something so wonderful.
I was able to sit down with the owner of Huffie’s, Howard “Huffie” Huffman, to talk about the history of the restaurant, the processes of running it and cooking for it as well as some of the memorable events that have happened there over the years.
J.T.: You guys have been here, what? Forty-three years?
Huffie: Forty-five years.
J.T.: I thought it was opened in ’65?
Huffie: Actually, it was ’63. My sisters started working here in ’65. I’ve worked here since I was thirteen and I was born in 1950, so about ’63 or ’64.
J.T.: Did it start out as a family business?
Huffie: Yeah, my father started it up. It all started out when we were in Joy Apartments on Millicent and they built a pit outside. Down South, everybody barbecues all the time and they share, so the neighbors would start coming over and we used to have as many as fifty or sixty people in the neighborhood coming over and eating our barbecue. That was at the Joy Apartments in the early sixties…sixty-one, sixty-two I’d say.
J.T.: Is most of your food still based on family recipes?
Huffie: Oh yeah, almost all of it.
J.T.: Have the recipes changed over the years?
Huffie: Not too much. It’s Memphis, Tennessee style barbecue. My father’s from Mississippi and my grandfather is also from Mississippi, so it’s basically Southern type food. It’s changed for like the extended menu, like cheese steaks and things like that, but the barbecue sauce is still the same, the ribs are still the same, the pork shoulder’s still the same. We smoke them outside. One time we got a commercial unit, but we found out that it just didn’t give you the same taste, the same authentic taste, so we went back to the hickory wood and charcoal. You know, we marinate the meat like two days ahead of time then we smoke them. We do things the old fashioned way.
J.T.: Do you buy your ingredients local?
Huffie: Oh yeah, we buy from meat companies and produce companies like, but things like the ribs and the pork shoulders, we buy from companies like GFS.
J.T.: Are there any plans for expansion, as in opening other restaurants?
Huffie: We had four or five restaurants before. I had my own restaurant one time and I’d do catering. I was over by the golf course for about two years and over by Kettering Field for like six years and that was enough. We found out it was best to just run your own single business than to try and have four or five others and trying to have someone else running them for you. You lose that family atmosphere and you kind of lose touch with things. You run into problems with people rushing the ribs or too much of a portion on a platter trying to get big tips. I mean, I’d do a franchise where someone could pay me a set amount of money and you could buy a franchise, because that gives you more control where you supply them with everything.
J.T.: Do you do a lot of catering?
Huffie: Like, I do hog roasts and Hawaiian luaus. I’ve catered for places like NCR, Mead and General Motors. I used to cater folks like the Temptations. I still have pictures. They used to know me by name. I fed the O’Jays and one time, a big named star was here at UD…I think he was about sixteen years old at the time…and he bought a couple of slabs of ribs and I took them to him and he gave me a hundred dollar tip! The best tip I’ve ever had to this day!
Huffie’s Bar-B-Que is located at 925 McArthur Avenue on the West side of Dayton, right off of Germantown St. You can call ahead to make a take out order or to make reservations for special occasions at (937) 263-2289. Their dining room is clean and spacious and, on many occasions, there are local jazz artists and other talented musicians playing while you dine. My only problem is after I eat my favorite meal there (pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries), I have to stave off the urge to curl up in the booth and take a nap. The “itis” is a force to be reckoned with.