As I sat waiting for my chance to conduct my interview with Cornelius and Kisha Mitchell, owners of BBG BBQ and Soul Food, I knew immediately from something Cornelius said to a customer just what the subtitle of the article was going to be: “Enter As A Guest, Leave As Family!” I watched that phenomena happen more than once as customers came in and out. The place was hopping, and at the time BBG had only been open 3 weeks.
Cornelius and Kisha are a blended family with a passion to minister to people, and BBG is their umbrella organization. It stands for Blessed By Grace, and includes a fellowship in Huntsville, a day care center, and more. Their hearts are big, as is their culinary expertise when it comes to authentic southern cooking.
Cornelius has been cooking since he was 12. He learned from his grandfather, who was the head cook for Big Bob Gibson for many years. Cornelius inherited the recipes, (including the one for the tangy, white “secret sauce”), tweaked them a touch to make them his own, and it is not at all uncommon for BBG’s to sell out on a daily basis. He also is the one who taught Kisha how to cook! Word is getting out, people are zipping up I-65 to Thach Road on their lunch hour, and the catering business is a going concern as well.
A woman named Cynthia came in for the first time, having met Kisha online. She wanted to try everything, so they made her a sampler. She and her husband stayed a long time, and she and Kisha talked as though “they went way back.” She even offered to send Kisha her family recipe for egg custard pie to add to the dessert line up.
Then Wesley came in to get supper. He was on his way home from work, and it was his third time in 3 weeks that he had made a “pit stop” at BBG’s. As soon as Wesley left, a couple came in wanting to know about the slabs of ribs. “My,” said the man. “This is real soul food.” He ordered a slab for a family event that was going to be held that weekend.
Someone who works at a local high-end eating establishment, (and who wanted to remain anonymous), said, “All my co-workers have been talking about this place. I’ll take a sampler, please.”
I asked Cornelius and Kisha why they chose Elkmont, and as only people of faith can understand, they replied, “God opened the door.” Previously they had owned a food truck, and had also cooked at a gas station, but they really wanted to minister in this area, and saw this as the perfect venue. I asked him, “Why should I come to you, when there are already legendary BBQ places in the area?” He said, “The secret recipes, and the other thing is my mother’s special dressing, which they were out of the day I was there. I hear it is the perfect side to their chicken, which was provided a tasty end to a long day delivering papers.
So, what’s on the menu? For appetizers, they have wings and a stuffed baked potato. There are several types of sandwiches, dark and white meat chicken, ribs, neck bones, and various plate specials, which change daily. Then there are the sides; you get to pick two per plate. In season, there are turnip and collard greens. There are baked beans, potato salad, vinegar slaw, mac-n-cheese, pinto beans and green beans. The portions are ample, and I left full and happy, looking forward for a chance to return soon. For dessert, there is pecan pie, peach pie, apple pie, as well as blackberry pie, which is Cornelius’ personal favorite. The desserts routinely sell out as well.
I asked them what were some of their future plans, and as far as the menu is concerned, soon they will be adding beef ribs as well as veggie meals. They have had to hire three people in order to keep up with the demand, and this weekend is the soft opening of their new outlet in the Elkmont Red Caboose.
I know it is somewhat trendy these days for restaurant owners to talk about putting “love in the food,” but I personally think it is indeed a real thing that just makes anything you eat made for you by someone else taste especially good. So, if you are interested in tasting food that is “blessed by grace,” then get yourself on over to 23925 Thach Road. You will enter as a guest, and leave as family.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner