Great barbecue might not always call to mind New York City, but that’s exactly the reason the founders of Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque thought the concept would be a fast-casual success in the Big Apple.
“New York is so diverse in dining destinations,” says Micha Magid, a cofounder of the concept with Christos Gourmos and Chef Hugh Mangum. “But the barbecue category was underrepresented, and that contrasted with how much people love barbecue.”
Mangum is a graduate of New York’s French Culinary Institute and a past champion on the Food Network’s “Chopped.” Now Mighty Quinn’s pit master, he learned the basics of barbecue as a child from his Texas-raised father.
The Mighty Quinn’s concept was first tested at Smorgasburg, a seasonal food market in Brooklyn. There were long lines for the smoked meats, and that early success led to the opening of a brick-and-mortar store in December 2012. Four more locations were added in 2014.
Today, the concept has corporate stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, plus a franchised location in Taipei, Taiwan. Magid says the brand is targeting dense urban areas where fast casuals are well received and guests are food focused.
“We’re not trying to do a lot of things OK,” Magid says. “We’d rather do a few things well. We want everything on the menu to be streamlined, and we want all of our meats and sides to really stand out.”
Meat choices include beef brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs (pork), brontosaurus ribs (beef), chicken, chicken wings, and smoked sausage. All non-bone meats are available naked or as a sandwich on a brioche bun with house-made pickles.
The three most popular sides at Mighty Quinn’s are burnt-end baked beans, sweet potato casserole with maple and pecans, and buttermilk broccoli salad with bacon and almonds. Other choices include corn fritters with honey dipping sauce, house-made slaw, and fresh-cut fries.
Mighty Quinn's Barbeque
FOUNDERS: Micha Magid,
Christos Gourmos, &
HQ: New York City
YEAR STARTED: 2012
ANNUAL SALES: Undisclosed
TOTAL UNITS: 9
FRANCHISE UNITS: 1
Magid says timing is everything in barbecue, and it varies greatly by product. “A brisket can smoke for up to 22 hours, ribs take five hours, and a chicken takes from a half hour to up to two hours,” he says. “At this point, we have a good handle on what sells and how much we sell, so we smoke according to demand.”
Meats at Mighty Quinn’s are smoked using only hardwood for fuel—predominantly oak, but also applewood and cherrywood. When the concept was first getting started, the press called Mighty Quinn’s barbecue a combination of Texas and North Carolina traditions, but these days, Magid prefers “New York style.”
He says American craft beers are the perfect accompaniment to good barbecue, and Mighty Quinn’s always has anywhere from four to 12 taps flowing, with beers selected to pair with specific menu items. There are a few rotating seasonal options, as well.
“All beers go well with our food, but with a brisket, an IPA with a dry finish is perfect,” Magid says. “Our chicken wings are smoked and then finished with a spicy lime sauce, which pairs perfectly with a toasted lager.”
At lunch, guests typically order a single serving of meat, one side, and an iced tea or soft drink for a check average around $15. Though the menu is the same during all hours of operation, larger portions and beer orders mean higher tickets during dinner hours.
Magid says he and his partners decided to use the fast-casual format at Mighty Quinn’s because it is “more authentic to the food type; barbecue is not a white-tablecloth type of food.”
Guests order at the counter, and their first stop is the meat area, where whatever they’ve selected is carved in front of them. Side selection is next, followed by drinks. Guests pay at the end, cafeteria-style. Magid says this format gives Mighty Quinn’s the capacity to fill several hundred tickets an hour.
Each Mighty Quinn’s location has 65–75 seats. Magid says the décor is “minimalist but still comfortable,” using eco-friendly materials like reclaimed wood.
Mighty Quinn’s is opening a Westchester County, New York, store later this year, and is also looking at a Midtown Manhattan location. Because the brand is still young and New York City is brimming with opportunities, Magid says, Mighty Quinn’s will focus its growth on the city for now. Nevertheless, the team is still looking at opportunities beyond New York.
“We hope to get lucky and find that many good locations. We will be in double digits by next year, and we are opening a second international location this year in Taipei. We are also looking in Tokyo,” he says.
He says any new international stores will be franchised, while U.S. locations will continue to be corporate-owned.