River Market district promoters have always hoped for a Beale Street feel, and it looks like they’re going to get one, when Gusano’s Pizzeria at 313 President Clinton Ave. morphs into The Shack, that beloved barbecue joint of yore, and brings in the blues, perhaps sometime in March.
The original Shack (or at least the first Shack this writer recalls) was located at the corner of Third and Victory streets, where you could eat in or have your barbecue sandwich and a cold beer delivered to your car on a little metal tray that could hang from the car window. That was in the late 1950s, early ’60s. The Shack petered out in the
Jenny and Bruce Slaughter, descendants of the original Shack owners, still operate H.B.’s Barbecue in a tucked-away place on Lancaster Road, off 65th St. Joe Finch, who sold frozen french fries to the Shack back in the day, acquired the Slaughter family recipes and has now partnered with Gusano’s Tim Chappell to bring back the brand.
It’s a dream Chappell has had in one form or fashion since 2013. Once he can get the approval of the building owners
— Melton Properties — Three Thirteen LLC — and the city for smoker placement, Chappell will begin the transformation. (Right now, the idea is to place the smokers in the room just to the right of the door, visible to pedestrians on Clinton, and vent to the roof: the aroma, along with new awnings, ought to be a good advertisement.) In addition to barbecue (and pizza; that’s not going away), Chappell hopes to bring in blues acts from Memphis and Little Rock, like Lucious Spiller and Texas Ricky D. “We want to bring the B.B. King feel and vibe to Clinton Avenue,” Chappell said, “authentic blues with authentic Shack.”
The Shack will probably be open only for dinner on weekdays until it’s fully staffed, Chappell said.
But that’s not all, as they say on the shopping channels: Finch and Chappell are opening Hickory Joe’s takeout barbecue in the storefront once occupied by Hot Dog Mike’s, 402 E. Third St., “before April 1.” The menu will differ slightly from The Shack’s, though smoked meats will be the theme. Chappell said Hickory Joe’s might offer tamales and sub sandwiches. They’ll probably apply for a beer license in the future, and may eventually expand into a little patio.
Here’s another new twist: Chappell said he’ll be “ramping up third-party delivery” for barbecue and pizza with outfits like Bite Squad and Uber Eats, which he said is going to launch March 15. (Uber Eats had not confirmed by press time.) He expects to get business from hotels and downtown condo residents who want to stay in for dinner.