Jerry Donohue defines good barbecue

Jerry Donohue runs the kitchen at Growlers.
Jerry Donohue runs the kitchen at Growlers.

It doesn’t take long to realize that Jerry Donohue is fiercely dedicated to his work. He runs the kitchen at the Bella Vista joint Growlers, which opened last October. The new gig prompted his move into the city from the Main Line, and has forced him to place his barbecue-competing pastime on the backburner. But he’s not complaining. Instead, he’s working on a barbecue-heavy spring and summer menu. This way we all benefit.

What’s your neighborhood now that you live in the city?
I’m in the Passyunk Square area. I moved there two weeks after Growlers opened.

What are your go-to bars over there?
I usually go to P.O.P.E. or Lucky 13, although my regular spot is Jose Pistola’s. I’ve met a lot of cool industry people hanging out over there. And one of the bartenders is a good friend of mine. We actually first met at Folk Fest, and eventually he introduced me to the owner of Growlers.

How do you like working there?
I love it. It’s unique to any place I’ve worked before. I mean, I don’t call it “staff meal” here, I call it “family meal.” We got a great little thing going here where there isn’t a division between front-of-house and back-of-house employees. I absolutely love it! I explain it to other industry people and they don’t believe me.

Is it true that you participate in barbecue competitions?
Yeah, but I don’t know if I’m doing any this year since my brother — who was one of my teammates — moved out of state. And I’m trying to gauge how busy I’ll be with the restaurant this summer. I’ve already worked, like, 41 hours in the last three days.

Have you ever judged a barbecue competition?
I have not.

Would you?
I guess I would. I never thought about it. I think it would be cool. My take on barbecue is traditional Southern style. My idea of a good rib has a little chew to it. I think a lot of people think a good rib is when the meat falls right off the bone, but I come from a different class. I don’t want pulled pork on a stick.


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