My friend, Dan Carter, and I recently visited one of Middletown’s newest restaurants, Taino Smokehouse, located next to Ace Hardware at 482 South Main Street.
We went on a Thursday night at 7 p.m. and it was standing room only.
The staff was friendly and offered us some tasty kettle chips as we waited for a table.
My college buddy, Chris Szewczyk, owns the restaurant and was busy cooking food for his hungry customers. He also points to his wife, sister, grandma, a few friends, and a few co-workers, who he calls his co-owners.
“I get energy from the people. When they come into my restaurant, I see it as them coming into my home and I want to do whatever I can to make them happy,” Szewczyk said.
The former software engineer got tired of the heartless corporate world and wanted to enter a business where it’s “all about the people.”
The restaurant has had steady business since it first opened in December 2012; a year and a half after Szewczyk first rented the space. It was previously vacant for five years and had a leaky roof and required a total gutting.
After a lot of dedication and hard work, the restaurant fills a need in the Middletown community for delicious barbecue food.
When asked why he decided to specialize in that particular type of food, Szewczyk said, “My wife and I fell in love with barbecue when driving cross country. We went through South Dakota, Wyoming, and Texas.”
Word of mouth has allowed the business to succeed as it has done no advertising.
While 90 percent of the business is take-out, a new seasonal ranch in the back will soon open that can seat up to 100 people.
To get the full picture of his restaurant’s offerings, Szewczyk made Dan and me a “pig’s platter combo” which featured pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, and a couple pork ribs alongside mac and cheese, coleslaw, and potato salad.
All of the food was tender and delicious. The portions were so large there was plenty of food left to take home.
Other entrees on the menu include rib eye steak, barbecue sandwiches, and wood fire grilled burgers.
Upcoming additions to the menu will include a make-your-own mac and cheese, veggie burgers, and fresh Angus beef.
Side dishes on the current menu consist of collard greens, corn bread, baked beans, French fries, creamed spinach, garlic mashes potatoes, and sweet potato fries.
Szewczyk said that the restaurant’s best selling items are the mac and cheese, brisket, and pulled pork.
We also had 10 wings, five cooked in a hot and tasty Voodoo Insanity sauce while the other five were cooked in a mouth-watering seasoned combination of buffalo and barbecue sauce.
We ended the evening with a delectable bread pudding with homemade caramel sauce.
Other deserts that will be added to the menu include homemade carrot cake and key lime pie.
Anyone who has visited the restaurant has probably noticed the lighted sign and mural with the Taino Smokehouse name and a picture of an Indian.
Szewczyk explained that Taino Smokehouse pays tribute to the Taino Indians who used a four-legged stand made of sticks for cooking.
The Tainos called the contraption “barbacoa”, an Arawakan word which stands for “meat smoking tool”. They used the barbacoa to cook animals like manatees, snakes, sea turtles, rabbits, and fish.
Just as the Tainos welcomed Christopher Columbus to the new world in 1492; today the Taino Smokehouse welcomes those who hunger for a delicious barbecue meal.
The restaurant is operating during its “soft opening” until March 8.
Then they will be closed for two weeks to make finishing touches which include the printing of real menus, decorations, getting uniforms, training, and rebuilding the kitchen to handle the volume.
They will have a grand opening celebration on March 24 which will feature an NFL player, DJ, Kamado Joe who will do cooking demonstrations, a wing eating competition, a rib cooking competition, and several booths including Liberty Bank, Ace Hardware, and a wine seller. Rain date is March 30th.