From The Daily News Leader article "New digs, same good food at Peck's"
The Peck’s BBQ I grew up with was a staple in Waynesboro for years. But last fall on a visit to Staunton Subaru, we pulled out of the dealership to test drive a Crosstrek and headed south on U.S. 11 for a quick loop to the interstate. A mere half mile down the road, there sat Peck’s in a neat, new log building with a parking lot full of cars.
Hmmm. I missed that move, apparently.
In 2007, owner Samuel Thomas (aka Peck) sold his primo Waynesboro lot to CVS Pharmacy and relocated to Staunton. But for a restaurant that has been open for almost 35 years, the slight shift in geography doesn’t seem to have deterred Peck’s loyal customers.
We went for lunch one day and found a dining room full of what felt like mostly regulars. There was an occasional couple or solo diner who asked questions, revealing their newbie status. The space was bright and open. Tables were quickly occupied when they opened up and just as quickly wiped down by the pleasant waitstaff. The counter had the tell-tale signs of a busy lunch shift. Peck’s is more than just barbecue. In addition to pork, chicken and ribs, their menu also features both grilled and fried chicken, country ham, hamburger steak, oysters, burgers and hot dogs, cheesesteaks, grilled cheese, a BLT and a variety of salads.
We each ordered a “plate” which includes French fries, slaw and a choice of hush puppies or rolls. The Brit ordered the barbecue plate and had to decide between chopped, coarse chopped or sliced. The chopped is a very fine dice — almost minced — and garners a bit of criticism from purists who tend order the coarse chopped to get bits of crispy edges and fat mixed in. So instead of entering into that battle, he chose the sliced. It was incredibly mild, like a very juicy tenderloin. The barbecue sauce they serve at the table is vinegar-based with a kick of chili powder that adds a unique twist and more flavor to the generous slices of pork.
The fries — like most things at Peck’s — are made from scratch. They are dark, peel-on, thin fries. In the pile on our plates, some were crispy and some soggy, but all were addictively good.
Slaw has two options, regular white slaw that has a creamy sweet, but light flavor, and barbecue or red slaw that is mixed with their signature sauce — or at least some version of it. It has a vinegary taste and is good but not better than the white. The hush puppies are oblong fritters of cornmeal goodness, especially when dredged through buttery spread, making them very Southern and very delicious.
I ordered the rib plate, which came with a half rack of well-cooked ribs. The meat pulled easily away from the bone, but stayed firm and not overcooked. The crust on the ribs was a nice thick, sticky coating of sauce, and other than being a bit on the salty side, were very tasty.
I subbed one of my sides for brown beans. Our server asked me if I wanted butter and onions in them, which is apparently the correct way to eat beans, so I agreed. The beans were great, the butter fake but yummy, and the onions raw and mostly avoided. The Brit ate big spoonfuls of the whole shebang and gave his approval, but not of the sweet tea. (He’s British and iced tea is not among his acceptable ways to drink tea.) I, however, have a secret crush on sweet tea, trying to avoid the sugar at all costs, but finding excuses like “because we’re eating barbecue” to drink a giant vat of it. It was just right: sweet but not too sweet.
Between the good food, great staff and inexpensive price point, it’s no wonder regulars, newbies and people like us who rediscovered Peck’s flock there.
Kirsten Parmer is the owner of Taste, a small business dedicated to all things food including writing, designing, teaching, cooking and local tours. Email her at kirsten@taste foodcompany.com.
From The News Virginian article "Smoking the competition"
Staunton, VA. -- If you love homemade French fries and North Carolina barbecue with a bit of cole slaw, Peck's Bar-B-Que is the place for you. Peck's Bar-B-Que, owned by Swoope resident Samuel A. Thomas III, otherwise known as "Peck," has succeed where many fail — keeping its customers no matter where it is located. "It seems like all our customers follow us, whether they're from Staunton or Waynesboro," Thomas said.
Keep on rolling
Peck's Bar-B-Que, once a Waynesboro staple and now a Staunton icon, first opened in 1980 in Fishersville. When Rt. 250 was widened in the early 1980s, Peck's relocated to Staunton. Then in 1985, it opened a second restaurant in Waynesboro on West Main Street, almost accidentally, after Thomas bought a building at an auction and remodeled it. Although Thomas eventually closed his Staunton location, Peck's thrived on the corner of Lew DeWitt Boulevard and Rt. 250 in Waynesboro for 22 years. After filling Waynesboro with its smoky fragrance for more than two decades, Peck's closed up shop in 2007 and relocated to Staunton. "We hated to leave Waynesboro," Thomas said. "We loved the people there. I really do miss Waynesboro." So why leave? "It made sense at the time," said Thomas, who sold his lot to CVS Pharmacy. Having set up shop in a smaller building on Rt. 11 south of Staunton Mall just past the Rt. 262 bypass, Thomas said business is better than ever, thanks to loyal customers such as Ricky Fox. Despite living in Buena Vista, Fox, who is 51 years old, makes the trip to Peck's twice a month. "I like the food," he said. "It's authentic barbeque." After taking another bite from his sandwich, he adds, "And the prices are very reasonable." Thomas' 23-year-old son, David, credits the success of Peck's not only to loyal customers, but to new ones as well. "Word of mouth has always been great for us," he said.
Building from scratch
Understanding why customers are so loyal begins with the food served at Peck's. "Everything we serve is made from scratch," Thomas said. That includes the sauces and dips, French fries and hush puppies. Even the cole slaw. "We don't use frozen fries," said manager Charles Truslow, 35, from Fort Defiance. The fries are cut fresh daily, David Thomas said. "We add a little salt, but they're pretty much delicious on their own," he said. But a barbecue restaurant is only as strong as its BBQ. This is why the cooks at Peck's focus on minced, North Carolina-style barbecue. Using a vinegar-based sauce, the meat is cooked for long periods of time at low temperatures with smoke from a hickory wood fire, Truslow said. "Pit cooked, basically," he said.
Not a fast-food eatery
While the homemade food and affordable prices might get someone into the restaurant, waitress Brittany Shull, 22, of Waynesboro said the atmosphere is what sets Peck's apart. "We have regulars who come in and we'll have their drinks sitting down before they get there," she said. It helps that the dinning room has a relaxed vibe to it, Truslow said. "It's not like a fast food-joint," Truslow said. "We have a down home atmosphere." Being a locally owned restaurant means the owners' children, David and Julia, have been working at it for years. Both David and Julia even returned after graduating from James Madison University in Harrisonburg. "They grew up helping us," Thomas said. And like many close knit businesses, the employees feel respected by the owner. "We're all family here," Shull said. "It's an all around good place not only to work, but to eat at." Being able to weather the storms of a sluggish economy and many moves, when it comes down to it, Peck's is still going strong because of how it treats its costumers, Thomas said. "We try to treat people right and give them good food and good service," Thomas said. "We treat people the way we would want to be treated."