Table Talk: 30 years later, Hoggy's hanging on in northwest Columbus
Before there was a smokehouse on every corner in central Ohio, there was Hoggy’s.
Certainly not the first barbecue purveyor in Columbus, Hoggy’s Restaurant and Catering – as it is now called – is a Columbus original and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
It’s been a wild ride for the chain, which once boasted 10 locations, the first opening in summer 1991 in Linworth.
The lone Hoggy’s is at 830 Bethel Road northwest Columbus.
Kyle Turner, son of Hoggy’s co-founder Mark Turner, said in the wake of a rebranding effort that started about a year ago, the restaurant is on the upswing.
The interior was reworked last year to make it appear like a true Southern barbecue deli. Now meats are cut in front of customers and sides and toppings are served from behind the counter.
“We make everything from scratch,” said Kyle Turner, director of marketing and business at Hoggy’s. “This makes you beholden to the customer.”
“Kyle’s good at that,” Mark Turner said. "He kept pushing me: ‘Dad, let’s make it better, let’s make it better, let’s bring it out in front of the people.'"
Indeed, Hoggy’s has amped up its barbecue game by building nine of the 13 sauces in-house and making pickles, pickled onions, jalapenos, roasted red pepper butter, pimento cheese and other condiments on the premises.
“We’re just trying to build a lot of flavor on everything,” he said.
A popular offering for the younger crowd is layered barbecue bowls.
“It brings people in here,” Kyle Turner said. “It’s just another option. I don’t see a lot of barbecue places doing it."
Meats are smoked outside in a Southern Pride smoker, which uses a mix of apple and hickory woods.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has taken its share of Hoggy’s catering business, but store sales have gone up, said Kyle Turner, who wouldn’t disclose a percentage.
And the uptick in barbecue competition has served Hoggy’s and its customers well, Mark Turner said.
“Personally, I think the competition is good because it makes you better,” he said. “Without it, you won’t get better.”
Mark Turner, who founded Hoggy’s with Ken Smith, said he can’t pinpoint the rapid decline of Hoggy’s, which closed all its locations, save for Bethel Road, in 2012.
He said he believes the fallout from the Great Recession played a big part in the store closings.
“People didn’t have that much money,” Mark Turner said. “They didn’t order catering. That was a big part of it.”
Mark Turner also founded locally based Steak Escape, a cheesesteak chain with an international presence, with Smith in 1982.
They originally opened the Bethel Road restaurant as Johnny Buccelli’s, another sandwich concept. They introduced Hoggy’s fare, and it outgrew the popularity of its in-store sibling, Mark Turner said.
Mark Turner and Smith eventually removed every sign that indicated Johnny’s B’s, as it also was called, ever existed, including the sign on the building.
“We didn’t intend for that necessarily,” Mark Turner said. “We didn’t know what we intended. Everyone just said, 'We want Hoggy’s.' "
Hours at Hoggy's are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. For more information, call 614-442-1800.