Smokin Ghosts BBQ specializes in local cuisine with a side of spirits


DDuring the early days of the pandemic, when workers disappeared from office buildings, Smokin Ghost BBQ food truck began to haunt neighborhoods across the region.

“When Covid hit, everyone was kicked out of the industrial park, so we went to these 60-house communities,” says Don Garrett, who owns the business with his wife, Lori. “That’s how we were able to survive.”

With restaurants closed and starving families confined to their homes, the Garretts’ vehicle has become like a good-natured carnivore truck. They sold lots of brisket mac-and-cheese, pulled pork sandwiches, burnt pork belly tacos and full racks of St. Louis-style ribs — and lifted their spirits.

Now the Pleasant Hills couple, who moonlight as paranormal investigators, have a permanent place in the SouthSide Works Town Squarea redeveloped recreation area expected to be fully operational by late September or early October. Developer SomeraRoad invests over $37 million in capital improvements and over $130 million in waterfront property.

Smokin Ghosts will be joined by two other all-season food and beverage providers – Levity Brewing Co. and Slice on Broadway – with a stage, dog park (opening this weekend!) and outdoor seating area.

The prefabricated, modular restaurant has a small indoor dining area, but is primarily designed for take-out customers. Georgia native Don Garrett always conjures up new menu ideas for hickory smoked meat, including creative twists on Caroline-style pork and Texas brisket. It has an on-site smokehouse that can hold a 160-pound pig, 64 chickens, or 30 pork butts at a time.

Due to skyrocketing costs and supply chain issues, he had to improvise, replacing the top-selling smoked turkey sandwich with a smoked pork belly BLT.

“I’ll sous vide the pork belly in herb duck fat for 8 hours and then smoke it,” he says with just a hint of a southern drawl. “When you order, we put it on the flat top for caramelization, then we add garlic aioli sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes.”

The heavenly aromas emanating from the company could raise the dead.

After working in IT for 18 years, Don Garrett decided to take his barbecue hobby to a professional level. He purchased a custom trailer and set up a food stand at 1825 Liverpool St. in Chateau near the Ohio River in September 2019 and soon after added a food truck to the fleet to meet demand.

Then COVID snuck in as one of the specters he encountered on his paranormal adventures throughout the region, including the Trans-Allegheny Insane Asylum, West Virginia Penitentiary and New Castle Mansion with hill view.

Over the next year or so, Smokin Ghosts BBQ will reach out to customers at a space near Robert Morris University and at another location inside The South Shore Distillery. Located in the former Joseph S. Finch & Co. building on McKean Street near Station Square, the complex will include a 5,000 square foot craft distillery and tasting room, craft market, rooftop bar and seating interiors and exteriors.

In the meantime, Don Garrett travels across the country with his barbecue team, 3 Taxi Guys, trying to rack up awards on the competition circuit. This month it’s going to go wild at Praise the larda culinary event in Murphysboro, Illinois.

He says he will leave his barbecue empire to his children when he is gone. But, like the smell of hickory smoke, it plans to linger a long time.

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