Big Lou's Bar-B-Q has closed.Familiarity pours from Big Lou's Bar-B-Q like the hickory and apple wood scents from the York shop's smoker.
Customers know each other, making small talk as they wait for their orders. Customers know owner Louis Smith Sr. and his handful of workers.
Most importantly, patrons know the food.
And Smith knows how to barbecue.
Customers filed in one after another on a Friday afternoon. They placed their orders at a counter in front of a dry-erase board that list's the menu: Big Lou's Famous Ribs, hand-pulled pork, beef brisket, barbecue-baked beans, wings, baked mac and cheese, yellow rice, potato salad and cole slaw.
It's a casual, relaxed atmosphere - similar to southern mentality. R&B music plays quietly over speakers. An orange neon sign emblazons the word "Ribs" in a long storefront window. The food overshadows the restaurant's simple décor of rows of tables and chairs against white walls.
I ordered a pulled-pork sandwich and barbecue- baked beans. I waited for a few minutes, listening to knives clanking on a counter top as an employee sent orders back to Smith. I peered into the kitchen and saw Smith slicing brisket on a cutting board.
The tender pulled pork, served on a soft kaiser roll, had flavor.
I expected the beans to be something similar to canned baked beans. I was surprised to see the side dish is a combo of pinto, black, great northern and vegetarian- baked beans, mixed with barbecue sauce and ground beef. It's sort of more like a chili.
Smith, 40, of York, was laid off from Harley-Davidson in March 2009. From that point, he wanted to work for himself.
He opened the shop in October after testing his recipes for a couple of years with makeshift stands on York streets and through catering.
"A lot of people kept asking us, 'When are you getting a location?'" he said.
He did research, watched a lot of Food Network and built his own smoker. His knack for barbecue - his favorite food - comes from within.
He learned how to barbecue from his southern friends while in the Army and along his travels. To do it right, he said, the cook must have patience and know when the meat is done.
"It's easy to under cook, and it's easy to over cook," he said.
Smith said his mom, Delores Kearse, taught him how to cook when he was 7 years old. He helped her make zucchini bread and fried tomatoes. She taught him how to fry eggs. When he came home from school and she was busy, he fended for himself.
"When I'm hungry, I make my own," Smith said.
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants with meals for less than $10.
If you go
LOCATION: Big Lou's Bar-B-Q, 111 E. Princess St. in York
LEIGH'S PICK: Pulled Pork Sandwich with BBQ Baked Beans and a Diet Pepsi ($8.21)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
PRICE RANGE: 75 cents to $18.99
KID'S MENU: No
DETAILS: Call 814-5957