The scent of pulled pork and baby back ribs will soon be wafting out of a Jackson Ward storefront.
Joshua Estes, owner of the Estes BarB’Que food truck, is about a month away from launching a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 317 N. 2nd St. The eatery will have the same name as the mobile business, but Estes said he’s planning an expanded menu that incorporates more local ingredients.
“Our goal is to make barbecue as exquisite as any other food-based hobby, like wine or craft beer,” Estes said.
The restaurant will lease the space from Michael Ng, who owns the nearby Thai Corner and is working to turn that block into a mini restaurant corridor.
Estes’s food truck serves lunch at the corner of 11th and Broad streets and makes the rounds at a few food truck courts. He said the customer base he’s built up with the mobile business should help the restaurant get off the ground.
He decided to break into the food business about two years ago, and it took him about a year to build his 4-by-8-foot cart. He’ll keep operating the food truck once the restaurant opens and plans to hire three to four employees.
“When I opened, I really wanted to help people overcome any food truck-phobia,” said Estes, 24. “I wanted to bring a full service restaurant to the streets.”
Before launching the barbecue business, Estes was a pre-med student and fungal biology at VCU. He launched the business hoping to make a dent in his student loans.
“As soon as I started, I knew this is what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life,” Estes said. “I wanted to do something with more room for creativity.”
With eight sauces and six kinds of slaw, Estes said the shop would have close to 200 sandwich varieties. He’s also offering a vegetarian barbecue platter with mushrooms from local forager Steve Haas.
“It’s all about the options,” Estes said. “That’s what’s going to set us apart from some of the other Richmond barbecue places.”
Estes’s shop is part of Ng’s plan to transform his block of Jackson Ward into a thriving restaurant court. Ng owns four properties on the block, including space occupied by his Thai Corner restaurant and Big Herm’s Kitchen.
Ng is also working to launch Andale’s, his take on Chipotle, in about six weeks at 325 N. 2nd St.
“I didn’t expect all this development to happen so quickly,” Ng said. “But with the convention center and VCU growing so rapidly, it’s seemed like the right opportunity.”
Ng said he invested just under $100,000 to convert the Estes space into a functioning restaurant.
“It’s a long term-investment,” Ng said. “Estes is going to be a great complement to what we have in that area right now.”