Growing up in Ireland, Abban Westby probably never guessed he would end up in Buffalo serving Texas-style barbecue food, but a position with Kahunaville brought him to Buffalo 17 years ago.
Last year, he saw the opportunity to bring a franchise to the area and he opened Dickey’s Barbecue Pit at 3220 Sheridan Drive in December – an Amherst location he calls a “hidden secret.”
Complete with a food truck and catering, Dickey’s is gaining a loyal following locally. Westby explains why.
Question: First off, how did an Irish guy end up serving Texas-style barbecue food in Buffalo?
Westby: I’ve been here 17 years and feel there is a need for fast-casual barbecue in Buffalo. We’re saturated with wing and pizza places. Dinosaur BBQ is full service and is downtown. This is fast casual so you come in line and order meats and sides and cash out at the end. All of our meats are sliced to order and all meats are on display so the guests see everything.
Q: What else inspired you to invest in the Dickey’s brand?
A: I started looking at different franchises and went to Cortland and I liked the food. I signed up before I left. It’s Texas-based and it’s been in the family since 1941. There are over 600 locations across country.
[Related: The Buffalo News' Food Truck Guide]
Q: Not every Dickey’s has a food truck. Why did you feel that was important?
A: It’s great exposure for us. The food truck is kind of unique to us. I talked to one owner/operator in Mississippi who had a trailer. Food trucks are big in Buffalo. People love them.
All our meats are cooked in the restaurant and then served on the food truck. We do serve four out of five meats on the truck. And we do catering – it’s 15 to 20 percent of the business.
Q: Speaking of the meats, explain how the meat is prepared and why it stands out compared to other restaurants.
A: Everything is smoked in house. We use hickory wood pallets. We have five different types of meats. We have brisket, pulled pork, chicken, two different kinds of sausage – a Polish and a jalapeno cheddar kielbasa – it’s kind of spicy. And we have ribs St. Louis-style.
Our brisket and pulled pork are smoked overnight for 13-14 hours. We put a lot of love and tender care into our meats.
Q: After just six months in operation, what menu items are proving popular in the Buffalo area?
A: Our brisket is pretty big. We have, on the food truck, a signature item: Beefy Mac Smoke Stack. It’s eight ounces of mac and cheese and four ounces of meat. It’s different. What we do is different than what other barbecue places do.
Another dish is the Texas Frito's Pie Stack – Frito chips, two slices of cheese, barbecue baked beans and beef brisket on top. People in Buffalo like to try different things. They don’t necessarily want pulled pork sandwiches. The jalapeno cheddar kielbasa – that’s something different.
Q: Do you offer specials to bring people into the restaurant?
A: We have a special on Monday night for ribs. You get a half rack (of) ribs, a side and a drink for $11.95. Kids eat free on Sundays; for every $10 spent by an adult, kids get a free meal.
Q: You own and operate this franchise on Sheridan. Any plans to expand?
A: This is the only one in the Western New York area. We’re excited to be in Buffalo; we hope to open another two stores in the next two years and two in Rochester over the next five years. I really see the need for fast casual.