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March 8th, 2013

by Total Food Service

Blueprint: Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque

Investigating The Metro Area's Hottest Kitchen Projects


Hugh Magnum’s Approach
The Operator
President of Mighty Quinn's


I bring a very unique background to our restaurants.  I have a culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. My Dad lives in Texas so I grew up with barbecue as well. I started my career in fine dining first but I had always barbecued.

I got a phone call from my wife's cousin, who said that the Brooklyn Flea market was looking for someone to do barbecue. So I set up shop and we were an overnight success. Every weekend was like a food festival. We've been busy to the walls since we've opened. We've been in The New York Times and the Post has written about us with just about every other publication as well. As we planned this unit, the big difference has been expanding to a seven day a week operation and being able to handle a substantial lunch business. 

Whether we are operating in Brooklyn or Manhattan, the goal is the same: Good food for people that enjoy food. To me barbecue is all about creating a texture that is created for the everyday diner not the barbecue person only. It’s not like the Carolinas where you've got different types of barbecue. It's not about regionalization or sophistication. Things don’t have to be either K.C. or Memphis or Texas.

At the end of the day you know, good food is good food. Whether it's dry rubbed or if you want to sauce it slightly. Or whatever it is you do. You know, if you make it the way you like it, then at least you know when it leaves the building with you that it has got your stamp on it. Someone likes it or doesn't like it; at least you're proud of the product. To accomplish that stamp, it starts with buying the very best. So we're using only Meyer beef for our brisket, Creekstone farms for short ribs and Berkshire pork for our ribs, spareribs pork butts and pork shoulder. 

A key to our success has been the team that we have built. To me it’s all about bridging the gap between restaurateur and food. So I handle the menu and my partners Chris and Micha Magic handle the business side. The centerpiece of both our operations are the smoking units. The original smoker in Brooklyn is a 6,000-pound trailer that was built for us by David Close. When we came to Manhattan, we needed to replicate the flavor so we turned to J&R Smokers in Texas. 

We wanted authentic, and J&R makes the only all-wood burning pit with no gas assist. A key to making Manhattan happen was to find an equipment dealer that could execute our goal to be authentic. We found that partnership with Economy and the Konzelmans. They listened to us and could see with our menu exactly what type of equipment package we needed to be successful. It started with the smoker, then a package of the right knives and Alto-Shaam's holding cabinets to enable us to keep up with demand and ensure quality. Pit to plate, we need to do it right and do it consistently, Economy made that happen. 

Michael Konzelman's Approach
Equipment & Supply Dealer
Economy Paper and Supply Co.


This was a first for us. But if you think about it with the growth of food trucks and mobile dining it makes sense. It was very interesting to help Hugh and his team make the jump from a weekend only flea market operation to a fully built out restaurant. We were brought in because of the work we had done with the ownership team at the Venetian Catering facility in Garfield, NJ. They knew what we could do. Our mind set with the Manhattan project was to help them build a design and equipment spec that will ultimately become a chain of multiple units in Metro New York. What makes it really interesting is the commitment to being authentic.  That means old-fashioned cooking, slowly with no electric or gas assist, it's strictly the flavor from the wood, the rub, and taking the time necessary to cook. In many ways the prep is reminiscent of a Katz's Deli. The guy behind the counter is waiting on you.  He's cutting the food and putting it on your tray or sandwich and then adding your sides. The goal was to help them create a country atmosphere on the inside. Woodsy but highlighted by stainless and metal. There are lots of shared tables and buddy bars to create a comfortable environment. We also helped them build a plan for creating a new approach to beer. They offer an extensive line-up of craft beers. A key to this design with the amount of cutting that needs to be done are the carving stations. The main carving station itself is about five feet long and can accommodate three people working behind it. Our strategy was to create one station for ribs, a second station for pork and a brisket station.  

Our approach to the building of the smoker was to touch all of the senses.  We positioned it in the front of the house, so that when the door is open, you can smell a hint of the smoke inside. There's a wall that moves so they can load the firebox in the side with the wood. Hugh and his team step on pedal to control the cooking process. It serves as a rotating barbecue that creates the capacity of a large rotisserie and adds flavor through self-basting.  Then we were able to hold the product and maintain the quality, which Alto Shaam enabled us to accomplish.

Darren Malone's Approach
The Architect
Project Manager of Mcauliffe And Carroll


Our goals were to provide an aesthetic response to the branding concepts developed by Mighty Quinn's, rendered as materials and textures; and to provide clear delineation of spaces for dining and flow through the service line. Our desire was to be referential to butcher shops and traditional southern BBQ joints without employing direct imagery from those typologies. The use of white subway tile and chalkboard menus is a clear homage to butcher shops; the use of steel is a reference to the traditional smoker. The reclaimed wood walls are also a traditional material however they are employed in a non-traditional manner that brings warmth and contrasts with the generally cool, hard surfaces of tile and steel. The material palette in general allows for interpretation in future restaurant developments and consistent iconic imagery for Mighty Quinn's.

Lighting is rather elementary. It is complementary of the other materials and the space and further invokes the idea of simple vernacular design. The restaurant spaces and materials allows patrons to understand the specific functions of each area while maintaining an open, shared experience where the preparation, serving and dining experiences are interwoven. Furnishings attempt to bridge a gap between individual table seating more common to restaurants today and the communal seating of a traditional BBQ joint or a southern pig-pickin'.  

The material choices fit within the established material palette in order to present a minimalist interior. The use of reclaimed materials is consistent with Mighty Quinn's commitment to natural ingredients and grain fed beef. The consistent application of the materials creates a visually simple appearance while maintaining enough complexity to be stimulating. We approach each client's needs individually. Mighty Quinn's was designed to meet the specific needs of their program, operational procedures, marketing and design aesthetic. What we will take to future designs is the same commitment to listen, respond and collaborate.

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