Nancy Krohngold, founder of Nancy's BBQ, is easily one of Sarasota's stand-out people. Born outside Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Sarasota, just mention her name and smiles appear on people's faces. With a passion for food, BBQ in particular, Nancy has been cultivating a local following long before she opened her 'BBQ joint' on the corner of Ringling Boulevard and South Pineapple.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Nancy. I wanted to learn the back story to her passion for barbecue and understand her commitment to giving back to our community. Here is what I learned:
So the obvious question is, how did you get involved in BBQ?
I was never really involved with cooking as a child. But when I got to college, cooking became more interesting. It was a way to make friends through dinner parties. And food-related jobs, like waitressing, were a way to make money. So, I can say my interest in food began in college and progressed from there.
However, my interest in BBQ started with an article I read in the NY Times. The article, THE CHEF: CHRIS SCHLESINGER; Barbecue? You Could Do It in Your Sleep, really piqued my interest. I decided to give the 14-hour recipe a try, and that was it. I was hooked on preparing authentic North Carolina barbecue.
So how did this passion for barbecue become Nancy's?
Well, my first venture into preparing BBQ, started with the recipe from Chris, but that was for my own curiosity. I liked the process and the results, so I experimented with different ingredients and methods. I wanted to come up with a rub that was mine. So, there were many tastings, and I recruited people along the way to taste and give me their feedback. One thing led to another, and before you know it, I was taking orders for pulled-pork dinners, doing some catering, and selling pulled-pork sandwiches from a cart at various events around town.
Tell me more about the evolution.
The pop-up cart and stealth location became very popular social media events around town. We were usually selling on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in various locations and began to think perhaps a more permanent location might be a good thing.
What was your vision for Nancy's BBQ?
I wanted to have a fast, casual type of restaurant; a fun place where all are welcomed. I was approached by Mark Caraguilo, who suggested we do a partnership. We agreed, and our idea became Nancy's BBQ; the barbecue joint you see today.
Moving from a pop-up cart and catering business to a full-scale restaurant poses a challenge. Can you share some of the issues you encountered?
I was fortunate to have Mark as my partner. He was able to focus on the restaurant space, the build-out and operations, while I was able to work on the menu, the recipes and the idea of cooking for volume.
From our years doing the pop-up cart and catering, we were fortunate to have a loyal following of customers from the area. When we opened our doors in March of 2011, word quickly spread, and we have been busy ever since. We are very grateful to our customers.
I would imagine planning a menu for a restaurant is considerably different from a pop-up cart. Can you tell me about the process?
You are right. It is entirely different. We needed to test the existing recipes to understand what we need to adjust for volume. We also needed to expand the selection of menu options and add a number of sides to accompany our barbecue. We definitely wanted to offer a salad with a protein option. All of this takes time, testing and tweaking.
I noticed your menu continues to evolve. Care to elaborate?
Thank you for noticing. We continue to try new menu items, because we want to offer a variety of choices to our customers. We recently introduced our portabella mushroom sandwich, The Sloppy Jim, Southern Caesar Salad, and brisket tacos as new items to the menu. All of our new items are barbecue-centric. When making a decision to add something new, we try to focus on protein, calories, availability, and quality. We work with the Sun Coast Food Alliance to source locally grown produce whenever possible. Our meats are smoked on site using about 700 pounds of oak per week.
When I think of Nancy's, I not only think of fun, I also think of community. You seem to be very involved with our community. Can you comment on that involvement?
I feel the community supports our business, and in turn, our business supports the community. The type of food we offer has a broad appeal, therefore, we are often approached by community organizations to participate in their events. We do so and often times will donate part of the proceeds for the day, or provide gift cards or catering as part of a silent auction.
What are some of the groups and organizations Nancy's BBQ supports?
301 South Pineapple Ave
Sarasota, FL 34236
Mon-Sat. 11:30am-9:00pm Closing at 8:00pm thru Sept.