Despite pandemic, Brookfield barbecue joint still smokin'

Beach Ave. BBQ soon will sell beer and wine as well

August 4th, 2020 2:02 PM

Beach Ave. BBQ owners Christopher Chin, left, and Juan Silva prepare a takeout order on Aug. 2 during brunch service at the Eight Corners eatery. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

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By Bob Uphues


While most restaurant owners and employees are still adapting to the new realities of running an establishment in the midst of a public health crisis, for Juan Silva and Christopher Chin at Beach Ave. BBQ in Brookfield, it's the only reality they've ever known.

And right now, that reality has meant their wood-fired pits have been working nonstop Wednesday through Sunday, smoking whole hogs and Wagyu beef brisket, half chickens and hot links – 800 pounds' worth a week – over oak logs inside the small wedge-shaped building at 3453 Grand Blvd., overlooking the Veterans Memorial Circle at Eight Corners.

That's a lot of meat.

"It is when you actually think about it," said Chin. "And this isn't even at full capacity."

According to Chin, there hasn't been a "normal" month yet for the nascent restaurant, which officially "opened" on April 11, though customers weren't able to actually enter the eatery until June 3, the first day Beach Ave. BBQ welcomed walk-in customers.

"It's almost like every month is something different," said Chin.

In April and May, customers ordered pre-packaged meals for pickup curbside. Since the business had been operating on a pop-up model selling a limited menu prior to the April 11 open, that wasn't unfamiliar. 

During April, when there were sudden shortages of certain items, like chicken, and price spikes on items like beef, the limited menu also served to conserve precious inventory.

"We didn't want a lot of waste because of all the uncertainty," Chin said.

In early June when the state began allowing outdoor dining, Beach Ave. BBQ was able to place six tables along the Grand Boulevard parkway and customers were welcomed inside to place takeout orders.

While Silva and Chin were a little leery about opening the space for inside dining in July, they didn't want to shut out customers, and have the space to accommodate about 16 total.

"I don't think we've ever been at capacity, though some people sit inside," Chin said. "The carryout business is still the majority of what we do."

Beach Ave. BBQ's menu leans heavily on low-and-slow barbecue staples – ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken. Sides are limited, on purpose, but the restaurant has regular specials, like Taco Thursday, smoked wings on Wednesdays and smoked trout.

Opening a restaurant has also introduced the partners to a new experience – being employers. When the business was takeout-only, they could pretty much handle the output by themselves.

With Chin working full time as a police officer in Forest Park – he handles administrative duties at the restaurant like payroll, catering schedules, licensing and the like – Silva is in the restaurant full time. With smokers going constantly, he's needed some help.

The restaurant is open Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"The only time the pits shut down are from close on Sunday to Tuesday morning," Chin said.

They have three full-time employees to work the two pits and the line, plus a handful of college kids to fill in, but making it all run smoothly "has been a whirlwind," Chin said.

"When we switched over [to full service] it was a totally different animal," Chin said. "But it's working out pretty well. There was a bit of a learning curve timing-wise with the pits. Luckily we got a lot of practice with pre-orders. It was a matter of dialing the time down."

In the next few weeks, Beach Ave. BBQ will also begin selling beer and wine. The Brookfield Village Board is expected to convene a special meeting this week for the sole purpose of voting to create the license.

"We'd like to keep the beer local, from breweries in our area," Chin said. "Beer and barbecue go hand in hand."

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