5401 Cottage Hill Rd.
Mobile, AL 36609
Take out options available.
A meat smoker.
And a leap of faith.
It was the beginning of one of Mobile, Alabama’s best BBQ restaurants. Born from a love of smoking meats and a hobby of building meat smokers, Meat Boss on Cottage Hill Road is the type of place where they greet you by name if you’ve visited a few times. And you will visit more than a few times because it’s just that good.
The Meat Boss himself, Benny Chinnis, opened the restaurant in December 2012 after the closing of his steel fabrication business, which allowed him to make his own meat cookers in his spare time. “He just couldn’t not do something,” his wife Dara Chinnis, or Mrs. Boss as she’s known, explained. “He has an incredible work ethic, so he decided to regroup. We jumped on the restaurant roller coaster and rode it.”
“We don’t see Meat Boss as just a business. We want to do this to meet the needs of Mobile. We want to treat anyone who comes through our doors like they’re coming over to our house for dinner.”– Dana Chinnis of Meat Boss
They began as an “indoor food truck,” according to Dara, with no dining area. They only sold whole meats and sandwiches during lunch three days a week, but the business grew from there. “Everything is still woodburning,” she explains. “It’s just like what you do in your backyard but on a much larger scale. Benny, he babies those meats.”
For their first five years in business, he visited the restaurant every two hours throughout the night to check on the smoking meats. While they have night staff at the restaurant and the ability to check the temperatures remotely now, he is still very particular about the process. “What we do is not something easily replicated,” Dana said. “It’s why we have yet to expand into Baldwin County, though we get asked about it all the time, but maybe in the future. We see all these things we want to do, but don’t want to go into debt to do it so we grow as we can.”
Over the past almost eight years, Dara explained that Meat Boss has mostly relied on word of mouth to grow their business: “We always wanted to put most of our money back into the business for equipment and other things for the restaurant instead of traditional advertising, so we so appreciate the support from our customers.”
People have taken notice of their success thanks to staples like their pulled brisket. Meat Boss has competed on the Cooking Channel’s Big Bad BBQ Brawl. “We could have never dreamed that would happen when we started out,” Dara said. “They reached out to us, and then the New Yorkers came down to Alabama. We held the competition at The Pillars. It was so much fun.”
Dara describes owning a small business as a practice of patience: opening the restaurant, planning of the future, adapting to the unexpected. Of course, COVID-19 was the most recent example of having to adapt. “When it all hit, over the weekend, we had to become a completely different restaurant,” she explained. “We had to be able to change at the spur of the moment and quickly figure out what people needed and wanted. It was a whole different flow for the restaurant, and actually required more staff because everyone’s not behind the counter anymore.” The restaurant is now a hybrid, a mix of its pre-Coronavirus charm with the adaptations 2020 has required of it, like table spacing and online and phone ordering options. “Being able to see the creativity it has taken to manage the changes has been fun, though,” Dara added. “Our staff has been fantastic, willing to turn into something totally new in a night. We had to take a week for Hurricane Sally because we had no power, but we never closed for the pandemic and are just so thankful for that.
“We don’t see Meat Boss as just a business. We want to do this to meet the needs of Mobile. We want to treat anyone who comes through our doors like they’re coming over to our house for dinner.”
Note: Meat Boss is Bellator Real Estate & Development’s October 2020 LoLo monthly client gift for Mobile. Contact your Bellator REALTOR® for details.