The Prized Pig donates meals to frontline workers by raising money with pop-up events

NOW: The Prized Pig donates meals to frontline workers by raising money with pop-up events

MISHAWAKA, Ind.—Owners of local barbecue spot, The Prized Pig, knew they’d have to reinvent themselves a bit in order to continue serving their slow-cooked meats during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But it’s not the first time the restaurant has had to start over.

The Prized Pig originally opened in Niles in 2013 and temporarily closed down three years later.

In September 2019, the barbecue connoisseurs reopened the restaurant, but this time, in downtown Mishawaka, with a focus on regional takes on barbecue classics like Texas-style brisket and Carolina pork.

Business was booming. Then the pandemic hit.

“Prior to all this, business was great. We had sold out of meats almost every single day we were open,” owner Jeremy Vohwinkle said. “We had a large following from Niles that came all the way to Mishawaka and they’ve been real helpful in keeping us busy.”

Because of the nature of slow-cooked meats, Vohwinkle said they had to come up with a way to serve the most amount of people while also producing the least amount of waste.

“The biggest issue is sourcing products right now, it’s hard to get certain product and prices are fluctuating so we’ve had to dial things back a little bit and do these one time events as opposed to staying open with a full menu seven days a week,” Vohwinkle said. “The hard thing with barbecue is that some of it takes 14 hours to cook so you have to cook it ahead of time and hope that people eventually show up and buy it. If you don't sell it obviously that’s a lot of waste.”

To keep doors open, even if just a few times per week, The Prized Pig launched its pop-up events.

Each event runs for a few hours and offers a different selection of items, including favorites like rib tips and chicken wings by the pound and sides like mac'n cheese.

“Typically, people start to line up a half hour, to an hour before we open. We’ll see about 100, even about 150 people, in about a two hour span and that’ll completely wipe out everything we cook for the day,” Vohwinkle said.

The line stretches down the sidewalk outside of the restaurant as only a few customers are allowed in at once to purchase their takeout in order to practice social distancing. 

To keep their smoker working when they aren’t hosting pop-up events, The Prized Pig has launched its BBQ Relief - Feeding the Frontlines initiative. 

“We’re doing is putting hearts on the windows, which you may have seen online, people are putting hearts up for support for those frontline workers. People can come in and for one dollar or five dollars, get a heart and put their name on it or a loved one’s name on it,” Vohwinkle said. “All of the proceeds with that are going to buying food to feed these frontline employees.”

The Prized Pig made its first donation of about 400 individually packaged meals to local sanitation workers on Friday. 

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