Galax BBQ champs open cafe

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By April Wright, Reporter

When Mark Davis and Cody Cline started out in the barbecue catering business as Squealers Authentic BBQ Company more than a year ago, their intentions were to become restaurant owners, serving only the best homemade foods around.

In fact, Davis, who worked for many years at The Gazette and The Carroll News, quit his newspaper job to make a career out of barbecuing.

Cline, a full-time mechanic at Hills Trucking, spends 50 to 60 hours a week in front of the grill, perfecting barbecue.

Davis and Cline met just a few years ago, struck a friendship up over barbecue, became an award-winning barbecue team at Smoke on the Mountain State Barbecue Championship in Galax and an in-demand catering service.

“We’ve had a lot of requests to start a restaurant in Galax and even phone calls telling us where to place a restaurant, and that’s our goal,” said Davis. “People wanted a set place where they can come get it.”

Now, fans of Squealers have a place to get that famous barbecue. Davis and Cline now own Squealer’s Caf that’s situated at the former spot of Crossroads Cafe at Crossroads Institute in Galax. The Crossroads Caf’s owner decided to give up the restaurant to focus on other careers.

When Squealer’s Cafe opened a couple of weeks ago, all the chairs of the restaurant were filled by the second day.

Most everything is homemade, with more and more homemade foods to be added. The caf is open for breakfast and offers biscuits such as sausage, ham and chicken, and will soon have homemade biscuits and gravy.

For lunch, diners can choose from a whole menu of special recipes, such as old-fashioned deli sandwiches, including turkey, bologna, and chicken salad, made from Davis’ mother’s recipe; hotdogs, which are tenderized in apple juice to give a sweet flavor; baked potatoes topped with the diner’s choosing; fresh salads; smoked beanie weenies; and much more.

But the specialty and the focus is barbecue, with every inch slowly cooked for hours on a large smoker to give it the best flavor. It’s offered as sandwiches, as plate lunches and as a topping for nachos — a best-seller for the restaurant.

Everything is made from their own recipes, passed down from generation to generation, through Internet recipe ideas and through trial and error.

Even their barbecue sauces — tomato-based, spicy tomato-based, vinegar-based, mustard and solid white — are made from scratch and can take as long as a year to create.

Davis said cooking is in his blood.

He learned to cook and about the restaurant business at a young age by watching his grandfather, John Davis, operate the Blue Ridge Grill in downtown Galax for 30 years. His mother was a caterer and his father was the neighborhood cook.

“I thought it was pretty neat watching him cook,” said Davis. “I thought one day I’d like to own my restaurant.”

And Cline has been cooking since he was a small boy.

The restaurant is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., and serves Kabbalah Coffee products.

“We hope to expand the basic menu and have complete home meals, with stews, chicken and dumplings, pies, cobblers and lots of other comfort foods,” said Angi Jenkins, manager of Squealer’s Caf.

Jenkins is a former manager of Lakeview Restaurant and shares Davis’ and Cline’s passion for cooking and the restaurant business.

“What’s really helping us is Angi,” said Davis.

By winter, Jenkins is hoping that homemade chili beans, Brunswick stew, spaghetti, lasagna and many other items will be added to the long list of specialty foods.

Although Davis would one day like to be a part of downtown, Crossroads has provided him with a good market of followers —some of whom have told him that they plan to eat at the restaurant every day to try all the food on the menu.

Davis gave compliments to the Crossroads Institute for offering a business incubator; to Tim and Connie Lewis, owners of the former Crossroads Caf, who lent equipment and employee help; and Michael Lewis, son of Tim and Connie Lewis, who is helping out.

"This is an opportunity for us to get our feet wet,” said Davis. “We want to learn what the public wants. After the lease is up here, we feel like we’ll be ready to go and start a major restaurant.”

To Davis, bigger is not always better. Davis said that when restaurants get too big, everything can’t be homemade. But he has in mind to keep everything authentic without cutting corners.

Squealers Authentic BBQ Company can provide full-service catering for any event such as weddings, parties and picnics.

Davis and Cline also provide barbecue by the pound and tailgating packs.

They have a full delivery menu with a minimum of six orders.

The menu includes items such as barbecue, Caribbean jerk ham, Brunswick stew, corn chowder, chicken and dumplings, Mexican lasagna and a variety of salads and healthy choices. Individuals or companies should give at least one day’s’ notice for this service.

• For more information or to request catering service, contact Davis at 233-7218, or Cline at 233-8271.