Jay's Smokin' BBQ ready to be downtown Fargo's meaty mecca
Jacey Henrichs and his family are confident that their new eatery at Main and University Drive will do well, pandemic or no. "People are still going to eat. ... They're ready to get out and enjoy life."
FARGO - Get ready for a smokin’ good time.
Jay’s Smokin’ BBQ will soon be opening its second location on the corner of Main Avenue and University Drive.
Work is nearly done on turning the former Mom’s Diner into a barbecue lover’s meaty mecca.
“Just waiting on the city to give me my occupation level,” co-owner Jacey Henrichs said Monday, Jan. 18.
Even as other area bars and eateries have succumbed to pandemic-driven red ink, Henrichs and his wife, Rochelle, are not deterred.
Their original Jays Smokin’ BBQ has been operating in the food court of Moorhead Center Mall since 2018. They’ve been working to create a destination at 1322 Main Ave.
“No guts, no glory, right?,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant. I want a place for families to come in and sit down.”
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COVID-19 slowed construction on the renovation of the former diner - just as it has nearly every metro area construction project. But Henrichs did have a bad break, or a business dislocation, depending on how you look at it.
Henrichs was on a ladder, then fell 14 feet, dislocating his shoulder and breaking a wrist.
“Tried to save a dollar,” he said, and cost himself more time and money instead.
“But now we’re ready,” he said. “We’ve got to roll.”
As of Wednesday, Jan. 20, an opening date had not been set. But renovations and repairs on the building are all but completed.
The reworked interior of the eatery is a funky mix of the rustic, the reclaimed and the recycled.
The building’s brick is bare on the west side. The south side of the dining area is covered in reclaimed lumber.
About half of the booths and the green and orange topped chairs are from a now-closed Uncle Maddio’s Pizza. The remaining booths are from former downtown dining anchor Toscano.
The beautiful maple tabletops are salvaged from Moorhead's now demolished All Star Bowl. Lane No. 7 to be precise.
“I basically grew up at All Star,” Henrichs said. “I bowled there for years and years.”
And why Lane No. 7?
“No special reason, other than it was in the best shape,” he said.
“Everything here is reclaimed,” Henrichs said. “We repurposed as much as we could.”
The exception is a big new smoker in back, ready to turn 450 pounds of meat at a time into tender brisket, pulled pork, smoky ribs, chicken and perhaps turkey breasts, “which smoke up really nice.”
He figures he’ll go through 15 to 20 briskets a day, and he’s installed a big walk-in cooler to make sure he has enough on hand to keep area carnivores sated.
The briskets are started about 5 or 6 p.m. the evening before, then cooked low and slow overnight, he said. For ribs, Henrichs has a 4 a.m. start in the kitchen.
“Part of my project now is to get the smoker ready to fire it up,” he said. That will involve a couple four- to five-hour rounds of seasoning before it is ready.
He also has fryers in the new restaurant - tools he hasn’t had at the mall - giving him the option to fry up catfish, French fries and onion rings.
Barbecue has been a successful second act for Henrichs.
He spent 30 years in the computer field, 20 of them in Florida.
Why the switch?
“I thought it would be fun,” he said.
He does have deep roots in food service, though.
His grandfather, Tom Tvedt (and his wife, Jean), ran Tom’s Pizza in Moorhead for years, first next to Sportland, and later near the downtown Hornbacher’s store. It closed in the mid-1980s, Henrichs said.
“I remember schlepping pizza. We grew up in there,” Henrichs said.
That instilled in him a love of good food and the good times it engenders.
“I like seeing people meeting people,” Henrichs said.
Like other entrepreneurs, he’s found that the job isn’t hard work as long as you enjoy it.
“I like it. To me it’s not tough. … I see it as a fun business, something I can do with my family,” he said.
He likes the location, just on the edge of downtown on one of Fargo's busiest intersections. It is also relatively close to his Center Mall location, so that each restaurant can support the other.
Henrich’s daughter, Brianna, will run the original location in Moorhead Center Mall’s food court.
The Tailgators Sports Cafe remains open next to him, and the restaurants share some kitchen space.
The Pop’s Roadside Eatery space on the northeast side of the building remains unused. If his barbecue restaurant proves to be a success, Henrichs said he’d consider expanding into that area of the building, too.
Jay's Smokin' BBQ won't have alcohol service when it opens. And Henrichs said guests will not be allowed to purchase alcohol next door at Tailgators or at other establishments and bring it into his restaurant.
In the meantime, people are calling him daily to find out if he’s open. And the wrap on the windows advertising the new eatery has people walking up, trying the doors and peeking in the windows.
Henrichs plans to be open Tuesdays through Saturdays.
He’s just down to getting the final OKs from city inspectors.
And he's certain people will show up, ready for some good barbecue, pandemic or not.
“People are still going to eat,” he said. “People are done with it. They’re going to eat! … They’re ready to get out and enjoy life.”