Since 2014, Akron native Melissa Babiarz has balanced her thriving barbecue food trailer and catering business, Babz BBQ, a full-time job as an automotive inspector and being a caregiver for her mother.
"I have a full plate," Babiarz said. “If you love what you do then, you know, you never work a day in your life. That’s the truth. And that’s how it is with barbecue."
In September, if all goes well, Babiarz will open her barbecue restaurant on 15 Monroe St. in Akron, serving her barbecue specialties, local craft beer, wine and liquor.
At first, Babiarz plans to do what she knows. She'll cook her catering menu of pulled pork, pulled chicken, ribs, brisket and comfort food sides. In the winter, she'll expand with chilis, and eventually integrate some of her Polish grandmother's recipes into her menu, along with chicken wings, burgers and soups.
She describes the ordering process as similar to Salsarita's. Order food at the counter, find a seat inside her rustic, maroon and wood dining room, then order drinks at her handmade bar. The seating will be barstool style, with tall round tables and stools, as well as "six or seven" stools at the bar. But she's clear on this: it's a barbecue with a bar, not a bar with a barbecue.
Babiarz has long had a passion for barbecue and cooking "for the masses." When she started selling barbecue as a pop-up tent at the Akron car shows five years ago, she sold out every time. The business has thrived since then, with weekly visits to Samuel's Grand Manor, catering events and even a future party booked for a Cleveland Browns player.
She also hopes to prosper from runoff Akron publicity from "A Quiet Place 2," which recently wrapped filming in downtown Akron, near her storefront.
“It was awesome," Babiarz said about the film shoot. "You could just sit out and just watch all the people walk up and down the street and the sets.”
She even bumped into actor John Krasinski, the director of "A Quiet Place 2," inside the Akron pharmacy and didn't recognize him, because of his baseball hat and beard. “Really nice fella," she said.
Babiarz will incorporate personal touches into her restaurant, from using her grandmother's recipes to naming a menu item after her late brother, who died in 2017 from a heart attack.
“He was the one who was 100% behind me when I first started," Babiarz said.