Ex-Army medics open Doc’s Southern BBQ in northeastern Ohio
By ANNE NICKOLOFF | Advance (Cleveland) Ohio Media | Published: August 27, 2019
WINDHAM, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Doc’s Southern BBQ has made a name for itself in the small town of Windham, creating tasty barbecue and southern dishes.
Owner Jake Whetstone bought the building, which used to be town-favorite eatery Dixie’s Diner, in June. But instead of closing the old business, renovating, and then re-opening it as Doc’s, Whetstone kept Dixie’s up and running at the request of some local diners.
“For a lot of people in the community, this is the only restaurant,” Whetstone said. “They said, ‘Please don’t close.’ ”
Doc’s Southern BBQ opened its doors as a new restaurant on July 26, offering more meal options and later hours than Dixie’s did. The previous business closed at 2 p.m., and Doc’s is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
Doc’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with dishes created by executive chef Edgardo Delgado, Whetstone’s best friend. The two met while serving in the Army, both as combat medics — aka, “docs.”
“That’s why it’s called Doc’s — that’s what Army medics are called in the U.S. Army,” Whetstone said. “That’s where we met, so that’s why we call it Doc’s.”
Whetstone served in the Army from 2007 until 2013. Originally from a small Florida town, Whetstone moved to northeastern Ohio a year and a half ago to work at the Cleveland VA.
The veteran had experience in southern barbecue, competing in Florida barbecue competitions. He operated a Doc’s Southern BBQ food truck and catering service in the Kent area for a while, then was drawn to Windham, which, based on a 2018 U.S. census estimate, has a population of 2,211.
Windham is in Portage County, between Kent and Warren.
“We chose Windham because we know it’s small. It’s outside a National Guard base, so that appeals to us,” he said. “We like tight, close-knit communities. When we came into Windham, we received a super-warm welcome. Everybody from the town comes out and supports us.”
One challenge Whetstone has faced with Doc’s Southern BBQ has been finding a comfortable price point for residents — especially because the business sources all of its meat and produce from small, local businesses.
“Pricing a menu for a small town is much more difficult when you’re talking about expensive cuts of meat,” he said. “We try to price our meats to match the income for what the area is. We still want people to come and eat, but we don’t want them to spend a million dollars to do so.”
Prices range from a few bucks for sides and kids’ meals, to the most expensive item on the menu: Smoked brisket with a side, for $15.50. Most meals — like pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and more — range between $7 and $11. A full rack of ribs at Doc’s costs $14.50.
So far, the community has latched on, Whetstone said. He has a group of regular diners who come in for all of their meals, and the business has drawn on visitors at local campgrounds.
Currently, Whetstone continues to work on remodeling the building. He has applied for a liquor license and hopes to operate a full bar at Doc’s Southern BBQ. He also wants to expand his kitchen into another part of the building, and possibly will look at moving into a second location if business stays strong.
And right now, things are off to a strong start.
“Business has been good compared to where it was with the diner,” Whetstone said. “We’ve tripled our profits from what we did as a diner, versus what we do now as a BBQ restaurant … We’ve been able to keep our prices low, so it’s been a win-win.”
You can find more information, including Doc’s menu, at the restaurant’s Facebook page.