EatDrinkJax.com interviews Joel Baker, owner of 4 Bones Barbecue.
1. Tell us about 4 Bones Barbecue.
We are a traditional, classic Southern barbecue joint. We slow cook our meats over red oak for 12-14 hours. One thing that makes us a little bit different is that ordering is market counter style by the pound, half pound or whatever the case may be.
…why red oak?
A lot of folks use hickory and a lot of folks use oak. I particularly like the little less sweet flavor that I get with red oak. It's a nice, strong, smoky flavor but it's not quite as sweet as what I pick up with hickory.
2. How long has 4 Bones been open?
We opened January 8th (2013).
3. Where does your restaurant name come from?
It's kind of a funny story. We had been struggling with a name for our restaurant. I didn't want to be Joel's BBQ or Baker's BBQ. I knew what I didn't want to be - I didn't want to be a cartoon pig riding a motorcycle, smoking a cigarette and wearing shades. But I couldn't think of what I wanted for a name. One evening we were polishing up our rib recipe and fine tuning things at home and I was sitting on the couch after having eaten ribs all day. I was pretty full. My wife hollered to me from the kitchen that she was putting the ribs away and wanted to know if I wanted any more. I was full to the gills at that point but thought "well, maybe some more" and said "Honey, how about bringing me about 4 bones?" And then it just clicked.
…did it click with both of you at the same time?
It probably took my wife a little longer. I thought it sounded pretty good and it didn't take her long. It just sounds good the way it rolls off the tongue. There wasn't much debate after that.
St. Louis Ribs. Photo courtesy of Monica Lea Imagery
4. What attracted you to your location in Jacksonville Beach?
A few things. It's a great neighborhood with awesome demographics. In the center where I'm located I have some great neighbors - there's a brand new church next door. They are a large congregation of some great people. The top thing though is that my landlord is awesome. He did a lot of work with us to get us in here. This little area was hit hard by the recession as well as the road construction out front, and it's just making a comeback. Our little center is almost fully leased out. Hobby Lobby is doing real well right next to us. It's a comeback area and I'm happy to be here to be part of it.
Chicken and Bacon Sandwich with Sweet Corn Nuggets. Photo courtesy of Monica Lea Imagery
5. Why did you pick market style service?
It wasn't part of our initial design but when I started researching menus I got tired of trying to figure out non-descriptive names. What's a "large" sandwich? What's a "half rack" of ribs? I decided to go market style so folks know what they're getting. It's kind of a throwback to some traditional places - especially down in Texas, a lot of them still do it that way. Barbecue joints kind of evolved from butcher shops and grocery stores where you really were buying at the counter and taking a pound of this and a half pound of that. I like that concept, rather than saying that you have a regular sandwich or a jumbo sandwich. That was just leading to confusion. I wanted people to know exactly what they're getting, what they're paying for. We cut our meats to order, weigh them off every time, and so we're up front about what you're getting.
6. When people buy market style are they mostly buying for themselves or are they buying multiple items and sharing around a table?
It's been a bit of an eye opener for me, in a good way. When people are buying market style they are a little more experimental and are willing to pick and choose and try some things they might normally not think of as going together. Or if they're not sure about chorizo but want to try it out they'll order a quarter pound and split it with others so everyone gets to sample.
7. You offer sandwiches as well don't you?
Yes we do. We have two main parts of the menu. There's our market, style which is the barbecue meat, and there's the specialty sandwiches. Most of those get cooked on a 7" crusty hoagie roll which we grill to order. We're using a great bread made for us here in town by Village Bakery.