Port BBQ spot emerges from basement to new downtown location
Starting any new business is not without its pitfalls. That caution is amplified when the new venture is a restaurant.
That realization did not scare off Robert Meredith when he opened Yummy Bones BBQ and Catering in the basement level of Willie’s Lakeshore Lanes in downtown Port Washington two years ago.
Meredith survived those start-up challenges and has now moved to a much more visible location, on street level at the northwest corner of Franklin and Main streets.
“In a business like this, it really is about location, location, location,” he said.
“We have a lot more visibility than we had in the basement of the bowling alley.”
For several months, Meredith had a sign proclaiming “coming soon” posted in a window of the new location.
“Because of that sign, I’ve had people who live in town come up to me and ask, ‘How long have you been in Port?’” Meredith said.
“When I told them ‘Two years,’ they would say, ‘Really?’”
The business officially opened at its new setting Saturday, and a steady stream of diners Monday — a day when the BBQ restaurant had normally been closed — only reaffirmed that the move was worth it.
“It looks like we are going to have to be open on Mondays, too,” Meredith said of the unexpected surge in customers.
Meredith spends much of his time at the restaurant with support from his son Gavin and several other part-time helpers.
There is no mistaking that the restaurant is the product of his commitment to making a go of the business.
“I have had a lot of great experiences but have also been through a lot of challenges to get to this point. I hate to think how many hours I have put in to make this move happen,” Meredith said.
“Still, I have never been one to back away from a challenge. I persevere.”
Not the least of those challenges was having to endure three floods in the lower-level setting over the past two years.
The new location may have slightly less seating than the old setting, but the storefront windows make it much brighter and more inviting.
“My original plan when I started was to run this primarily as a catering business and some carry-out service on the side, so the basement was fine,” Meredith said.
“In this new location, I can easily see people wanting to spend time here and enjoy their meals.”
Catering continues to pad the bottom line at Yummy Bones, with the former location being used for much of that food preparation work.
Meredith said he learned a lot about barbecue and Southern cooking from watching his grandmother Louise when he was a child.
From that background, he has made his own mark on such specialties as loaded smoked potatoes, Southern baked beans and a tribute dish — Mama Louise’s Mac and Cheese.
Platters of baby back and St. Louis style ribs have also proven especially popular, as have the pulled pork and smoked chicken.
Meredith’s culinary creativity is on display in the signature Sloppy Pig — a combination of the popular pork entrees in homemade BBQ sauce.
Yummy Bones has developed a devoted following, including some high-profile customers.
Meredith noted that Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks stopped in for a meal with his mother and sister last year. Former Green Bay Packers Chris Jacke and Chris Francies have also sampled his menu.
“It is kind of cool to have celebrities stopping in to eat,” Meredith said.
Although the paint is still fresh at the new location, Meredith said he can’t help but think about the future.
“At the end of the year or maybe early next year, I would like to look into opening a second location,” he said.
Image Information: YUMMY BONES BBQ and Catering owner Robert Meredith expects the dining spot’s new Port Washington location will attract a lot more diners. For its first two years, the restaurant was based in the basement of a Port bowling alley. Photo by Mark Jaeger