Note: Our writer received a complimentary meal.
Fresh gourmet meals you can assemble from ready-made ingredients are a hot trend. But wouldn’t it be even tastier if you could eat well and do good at the same time? Adding a generous twist to popular online pre-portioned meal services, the newly opened Daddy Matty’s BBQ pop-up shop, in Madison, layers an extra-special component to its business model: food donations to those in need.
Originally launched in 2014 (pre-pop-up), Daddy Matty’s BBQ is the passion project of Madison dad/entrepreneur Matt James. A longtime partner in a financial services firm, James started out with a small-scale catering model—offering mouth-watering smoked brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, and more, which he tested out on friends and family. “I was working for myself and realized I had the time to pursue other things that I wanted to accomplish,” he explains. “In business terms, I wondered, ‘Can we create a community-focused business?'” From the start, the venture followed its motto “Everybody Eats” by creating a partnership with the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry. The profits generated from the catering efforts went entirely to the food pantry for the first couple of years while James tested new recipes and learned the ropes of running the business.
Feeling ready to take the next step in 2016, James began investing a portion of profits into his operations but still maintained Daddy Matty’s core commitment to feeding people in need in the community by donating proceeds and meals throughout the year. “Giving back is part of the DNA of the business,” says James. “Every purchase you make helps to put a meal on [a] neighbor’s plate.”
As the catering picked up, Matt began bottling his signature BBQ sauce (made, he explains, by blistering and then pureeing peppers with “other great tasting vegetables, premium spices, and a little bit of sweet stuff”) and sought out a commercial kitchen to expand his services. Partnering with the owner of another successful local caterer, Mexican Spice, the two businesses began sharing a leased kitchen space and then, in April of this year, launched the pop-up model inside Main Street Wine Cellars.
Open Monday through Saturday, 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., the shop-within-a-shop is a welcoming area right off the store’s entrance. Alongside Mexican Spice’s daily tacos, homemade chips, and other fresh sides, Daddy Matty’s offers weekly signature meals that rotate depending on what James has on the smoker. His do-it-all staffer Bianca Shalakho helps man the storefront and puts the word out with signage and social media outreach. The grab-and-go meals, ranging in price from $35 – $38, are perfect for parents dashing from school to sports and other evening commitments. For those able to plan ahead, meals can be pre-ordered and will be ready for pickup behind the counter.
What’s in a Daddy Matty’s BBQ box? The one we were provided as a sample included the following:
- Smoked brisket
- German potato salad
- Creamed spinach
- Green chili corn bread with honey butter
- Homemade pickles
- Daddy Matty’s Small-Batch BBQ Sauce
Other recent boxes included BBQ ribs and brisket sliders with sides like mac & cheese and coleslaw, along with homemade pickles and corn bread. Additional a la carte items on offer may include gluten-free mac & cheese, “really good baked beans,” BBQ chicken salad, and seasonal delights like a fresh watermelon, feta, and basil salad. Weekly specials can be found on both the Daddy Matty’s BBQ website and on Facebook.
Inside each handy carry box, the meal is neatly packed for easy assembly at home. The meat is vacuum-packed right off the smoker, retaining its freshness, flavor, and aroma. A quick boil right in the sealed package brings it to table-ready perfection. Sides are easily heated on a stove top or in the microwave. One dinner box includes two to three generous servings. The shop also sells full-sized bottles of James’s killer BBQ sauce, in case the small cup provided isn’t enough to satisfy your drenching needs, along with a selection of a la carte items.
Convenient, easy, and delicious, Daddy Matty’s BBQ offers a fantastic option for enjoying a high-quality meal at home without the work—and knowing that your purchase helps fund an important cause kicks it up another notch. “[A portion of] all of our sales go toward our donations,” James explains. “We’ve been able to donate about $5,000 so far and I would hope that this year alone we could match that.”
Catering for events of all sizes is available, and Daddy Matty’s can also be found plating up BBQ delicacies at events around the state, using a massive commercial smoker that James hauls on his own truck. All these services fuel James’s commitment to share the wealth. “There’s a lot of layers to what I’m trying to do,” he explains. “The commitment I want to be able to make the community and the people who work with me—I’ve always felt luckier than I probably deserve. There needs to be some element of giving back.”
To inquire about catering or to pre-order a meal box, call 973-845-8711.
For more information, weekly specials, and updates on what Daddy Matty’s got cooking for the community, visit daddymattysbbq.com.