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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Chicken In A Barrel BBQ

Restaurant Insider

April 25, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Chicken in a Barrel BBQ owner Jamie Low and general manager Jacob Low sit down with Anne Lee.

ANNE LEE speaks with Chicken In A Barrel BBQ general manager JACOB LOW

Chicken In A Barrel BBQ in Wahiawa is a true family affair.

Jacob Low serves as general manager, while parents Patrick and Jamie serve as owners of the Central Oahu franchise. The family opened the restaurant in October 2020 — a leap of faith, to hear them tell it.

There’s something for everyone in the family at Chicken In A Barrel BBQ.

This week, learn more about the eatery’s origins and what’s cookin’ on the menu.

AL: What does this concept bring to Hawaii?

JL: This concept was originally created in 2010 on Kauai with owner Mike Pierce. He had been using this type of cooking method in metal drum barrels to make all different kinds of meats for his friends and family. Today, the metal drums are specially designed for Chicken In A Barrel. They’re manufactured on the mainland but are the original patented design of Big Mike’s. Each barrel is about 4 feet high, and we hang the meats over charcoal and kiawe wood via indirect heat. Everything is fresh using Big Mike’s dry rub recipe and prepared here. The beef and pork are slow cooked, which results in this moist, smoky kiawe flavor.

Sampler Plate ($21.05)

AL: How did the restaurant come to Oahu?

JL: I went to live on Kauai and met some great people. One in particular is Patrick Pepper, who is the son-in-law of Big Mike. They gave me a job at the restaurant and I fell in love with it. They mentored me, helped me learn the ins and outs of the restaurant. I developed a passion for cooking and the industry. My father Patrick really believed in my passion and helped launch the first franchise here on Oahu.

AL: You offer more than just barbecue meats. Tell me more about the menu.

JL: All our sides — from the Spanish rice, coleslaw and macaroni salad — are made fresh daily. Our homemade chili beans are a result of Big Mike’s wife, who created the spice that goes into this dish. We also have our popular Boar Dog, which is a jalapeño/cheese pork sausage topped with grilled onions, cheese and mustard. We offer our popular entrée options a la carte.

Combo Chicken & Rib Plate ($19.65)

AL: What is the restaurant’s most popular dish?

JL: The Sampler Plate ($21.05) consists of chicken, pulled beef and pork, and some baby back ribs. The Combo Chicken & Rib Plate ($19.65) is a one-fourth piece of chicken and two baby back ribs. All entrées come with rice and chili beans.

On our Off the Grill menu, our Hoagie Sandwich ($12) comes with onion rings or fries, and your choice of shredded pork or chicken (beef is an extra $2). It’s served in a hoagie roll and topped with provolone or pepper jack cheese, with grilled onions.

Wahiawa back in the day.

We have a Mexique menu, which offers authentic Mexican food made with barrel-cooked meats, and we added fish. We made the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos ($12.50) with coleslaw, pico de gallo and cheese, topped with our homemade cilantro sauce and a side of Spanish rice.

We also have 100% grass-fed burgers. Our most popular is the Bacon Cheeseburger ($13.15). It’s a one-third-pound handmade patty mixed with our signature rub and onions, topped with lettuce, tomato and onions. You can add fries ($2.80), sweet potato fries ($3.25) or onion rings ($2.80).

AL: What makes your food so popular?

JL: The type of cuisine we offer is healthy and unique. With the pandemic, people are used to takeout, and our dishes are takeout friendly. We also have outdoor seating that guests can take advantage of. The homemade rub ($13.92) and sauce ($12.60) are for sale here, too.

Bacon Cheeseburger ($13.15), shown with french fries (additional $2.80)

AL: The restaurant is in a historical landmark. Can you tell me more about this?

PL: The building used to be Takano Store, with a two-story residence in the back where the family lived. The building was constructed around 1920 and the family sold various goods including kerosene, groceries and sundry items. During the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked Wheeler, and this building was hit by a stray bullet from a Japanese Zero.

The family owns the property to this day. At the time of this picture (see photo No. 4), the main road was Colony Road instead of Kamehameha Highway, which ended at Kilani Avenue. The original developer named all of the side streets after fruits, flowers and trees. At that time, Ohai Street was Ohia Street. I discovered that around 1950, the state surveyor switched up the “a” and the “i.” Ohai Street has been long associated with drug use and poverty. In redeveloping this area, our goal has been to restore Ohai Street back to Ohia Street in spirit, and this building is the heart of that effort. In 2012, I restored the building. We basically rebuilt the entire building and upgraded the facade to preserve a cool piece of Wahiawa history.

Big Mike’s BBQ rubs and sauces range in price from about $12 to $14.

AL: It takes a village to run a restaurant. Tell me more about your team.

JL: I have an awesome management team. Brinn Haw-kins works the evening shifts, he is my second in my command. Leighton and Taylor are my other managers. My dad Patrick is the CFO, and my mom Jamie is the president.

AL: Anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?

JL: Our customers are so wonderful. We have a wonderful blend of tourists and locals, and a cute uncle that picks up food for his family. It’s very Wahiawa, very family.

We also offer a call-ahead option to have it ready to pickup. Or, order online and click select Wahiawa. We also have delivery via Uber Eats or Quick Cuisine.

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