More than a decade ago, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque launched at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg with a limited menu and limited resources. Over the next 12 years, the eatery has expanded well beyond Kings County, with 11 locations across three states and two countries – and recently returned to its roots, with two new locations in Brooklyn and more to come.
The now-famous BBQ joint got its start in 2011, when co-founders Micha Magid, Hugh Mangum and Christos Gourmos loaded a mobile meat smoker into the back of a pickup truck and headed to Smorgasburg for the weekend. With Mangum serving as “pitmaster,” the trio churned out slow-smoked sandwiches and other BBQ goodies and received a warm welcome.
“We really saw an amazing turnout,” Magid said. “At the time, there wasn’t authentic barbeque in the city, and I think people really gravitated towards what we were doing. And that was basically the start of Mighty Quinn’s.”
In 2012, the first brick-and mortar Mighty Quinn’s location opened in Manhattan. Now, there are Mighty Quinn’s outposts in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and even Dubai, thanks to franchise partners.
“We just thought that what we built was very scalable, and we saw the same dynamic in other areas, where there was just kind of a lack of great barbeque,” Magid explained. “So we said, OK, let’s turn this brand into something that’s more than a local go-to spot.”
All the while, Mighty Quinn’s was still a staple at Smorgasburg, which attracts thousands of foodies to the Williamsburg water front every summer. But the COVID pandemic put a damper on the food fair, and the Mighty Quinn’s team hasn’t attended since then.
But, last year, they opened their first brick-and-mortar location in Brooklyn in Gowanus, at the old Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbeque spot. In mid-February, they went back to Williamsburg, where it all began, and opened a new restaurant on South 2nd Street.
“That is a bit of a bigger format location, it does have a full bar and a bigger dining room,” Magid said of the Williamsburg location. “The difference there is a bar food menu and a custom cocktail program, which is a little bit different from the other locations in Manhattan.”
Where the other Mighty Quinn’s locations share a simple BBQ menu and serve only craft beers, the bar in the Williamsburg restaurant has a little something more to offer — the bar menu features items like the Burnt Ends Flat Bread, Smoked Brisket Tacos, and Mac & Cheese Fritters; while the cocktail menu offers classic cocktails with a Quinn’s twist, like a Smoked Old Fashioned and a Bloody Mary made with house BBQ and hot sauces.
The barbeque itself hasn’t changed much, aside from the equipment, Magid joked — where Mighty Quinn’s started out with that mobile smoker in the back of a truck, each location is now equipped J&R BBQ pits manufactured in Texas.
“All the recipes are somewhat based on Hugh’s family recipes, I’d say we’ve kind of modernized them a more accessible pallet … we want to create a menu that people can frequent more often than once a month,” he said. “In terms of the smoking, it’s still low-and-slow, we cook over nothing but oak, apple and cherry woods, and that’s been the same for ten years.”
The team is planning to open a restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn later this year — that location will be a little smaller than the Williamsburg spot, with the traditional beer menu rather than craft cocktails.
Magid said the market in New York City is still “very much in flux” as it recovers from the pandemic, especially with regard to office workers — downtown areas filled with office buildings are still emptier than they were pre-pandemic.
“We really look for a nice mix of both [office and residential] where there’s an office population that can access us either directly or on delivery platforms, but we really want to be walking distance from people’s homes,” he said.
Mighty Quinn’s is also available in a number of local sports stadiums, Magid added, and two new franchise locations are opening in Maryland this year, and the team is on the lookout for new franchise partners to take the business even further.
“We think that it’s still very much an open space, and much less competitive if you look at some of the other categories — if you look at burgers or pizza, there’s always a million options,” Magid said. “That’s what gets us really excited about the business.”