There’s a new barbecue spot in town. Carolina Backyard BBQ opened Aug. 21 at 1630 Fox Trot Court, off Hanes Mall Boulevard, in the location formerly occupied by Food Freaks and Beer Geeks.
Carolina Backyard BBQ is the brainchild of Dimitri Petropoulos, a Greek-American who cut his restaurant teeth at Mr. Barbecue years ago.
Petropoulos, 41, came to this country in 1994 at age 17 from Greece. Within a couple of years, he became a manager at Mr. Barbecue on Peters Creek Parkway, and he later became a partner in the Mr. Barbecue on University Parkway.
Petropoulos moved back to Greece in 2003 and opened a seafood restaurant. But after starting a business to import wine and olive oil, he moved back to Winston-Salem in 2011. He continues to import wine and olive oil to sell to restaurants and to such shops as the Greek Village Market on Healy Drive.
But he missed the restaurant business. “I guess it’s in my blood,” he said.
After years of experience with barbecue, Petrapoulos had definite ideas of what he wanted in his own barbecue restaurant. Carolina Backyard BBQ does a few things differently from a standard Lexington-style barbecue restaurant in this area.
“I wanted to do more than just Lexington-style. I wanted to have brisket and ribs,” he said.
He is using black Angus beef, hormone-free pork and free-range chicken. He also has a grass-fed burger in addition to an Angus burger.
Meats are cooked in a Southern Pride gas cooker, supplemented with hickory logs.
Fries are hand-cut and served with a light coating of duck fat for extra flavor. Hush puppies are made from scratch, and plates come with house-made pickles.
“I wanted to something a step above,” Petropoulos said. “I also wanted to have beer and wine. We have all these great local beers now.”
Carolina Backyard BBQ has eight taps, seven of which hold N.C. beers. It also has a short wine list that features one of Petrapoulos’ Greek wines.
The menu includes a handful of sandwiches ($3.95 to $6.50), including hot dogs, pulled pork and pulled chicken, and angus beef burgers (all $4.95).
For vegetarians, there’s a burger made with portobello mushroom marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
In addition to a tossed salad, there’s an $8.95 salad topped with a choice of pork, chicken or brisket.
Plates, which come with hush puppies and two other sides, include pulled pork ($9.25), barbecue chicken ($9.25), beef brisket ($11.95) and St. Louis-style smoked ribs ($11.95 to $23.95) Combos are available with two, three or four meats.
Already a best-seller are the tacos made with barbecue — available with brisket, pork of chicken. They’re served with soft flour tortillas and topped with pico de gallo and cotija cheese. Two BBQ tacos go for $5.95, and a plate of three tacos with sides goes for $11.95. “People go crazy over them,’ said manager Savannah Moye. “It’s piqued people’s interest — that’s for sure.”
“The tacos go really well with beer,” Petropoulos said.
Sides include potato salad, fries, mac ’n’ cheese, baked beans, coleslaw and barbecue slaw. Customers can choose from Lexington-style sauce, sweet barbecue sauce, and a bourbon sauce — all made in-house.
Carolina Backyard BBQ is buying its banana pudding. But it has some homemade cakes and pies, as well as homemade peach cobbler by Kimberly Cardwell. She makes the cobbler from the recipe of her grandmother, the late Belva Smith, who made desserts for Little Richard’s and Grecian House in Clemmons for years.
The restaurant — in the buildings that originally housed Brew Nerds and Kernel Kustard — has an unusual setup. Customers order food outside from a counter, and staff bring it to either the patio, an open garage or indoor bar area. The large patio seats about 70, while the garage can accommodate about 30 and the bar can seat 22.
Carolina Backyard BBQ also has a drive-thru.
“When I had the Mr. Barbecue on University, about 60 percent of the business was drive-thru,” Petropoulos said. Barbecue, he said, lends itself to a drive-thru, because the meats are cooked in advance. “So usually we can serve in a minute or two.”