Smoke rising in Fremont
New barbecue joint opens
By James Card
A new roadside barbecue eatery will have a grand opening on Saturday, May 7.
The Shack has been open since March 16 as a soft opening period to smooth out their operations. They are already earning a reputation as the place to go for slow-smoked meats.
Lori Verhalen is the proprietor of The Shack and as a real estate agent she is a familiar face in the Waupaca area. She plans to continue her real estate endeavors but admits The Shack is becoming a full-time focus for her.
“I always like a new challenge,” said Verhalen. “I have a love of barbecue and I like working with people. For me the front of the house is where it’s at.”
The building was on the market for more than two years and it was previously Buck’s BBQ. There was already a smokehouse on the premise and the kitchen equipment came with the purchase. Other than some new flooring, painting and decorating, not much renovation was needed to get it up and running.
“We wanted to keep it a shack-y look, the shack-ier the better,” said Verhalen.
Low and Slow
Jesse Roberts is the smokehouse manager and he brings more t han 20 years of experience in the art of slow-smoking meats. “Low and slow” is a common mantra in this culinary form, meaning the meat is cooked at low temperatures and for a long time—such a long-time that tending to the meat can be an around-the-clock schedule.
“The first month of smoking, I would get up three times a night. Here at ten, here at midnight, here at two to make sure this thing [the smoker] wasn’t getting too hot and keeping the temps right,” said Roberts.
He had to be physically present to read the thermometers but then he found a high-tech solution and purchased a ThermoWorks, a digital BBQ alarm thermometer. With probes inside of the smoker, the gadget will send him updates to his smart phone. He can set alarms to certain temperatures and get a better night’s sleep.
Besides mastering the cooking temperature, the other key inputs to good barbecue is exposing the meat to the smoke itself and the brine solution.
“Hickory is just a great medium because it’s a nice even, mild smoke especially when I’m smoking it for 12 to 15 hours. I don’t let up on the smoke but I don’t want to overpower it,” said Roberts. “It’s not just about throwing it on there to get that smoke flavor; I also brine the turkey breasts and the chickens. It’s not cure like you would have with bacon. It’s a salt brine that I use.”
Until the grand opening in early May, The Shack is only open on Friday for the fish fry and on Saturday and Sunday for the barbecue menu.
From the smokehouse
On the menu there are a number of BBQ plates to choose from that is a mix of pulled pork, brisket, Polish sausage, chicken, and smoked turkey. Their sausages are made in-house and are all beef.
Their sandwich line-up is pulled pork, brisket and beef hot dogs. The sides are composed of garlic toast, smoked potatoes, French fries, baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and applesauce.
They have a special Friday-only menu for the fish-fry crowd and plates of perch, walleye and pollock are served up. The fish fillets are deboned and breaded by hand. Pulled pork and beef hot dogs can still be ordered on this day.
There is also a gastronomic challenge of epic proportion called The Barnyard. In one sitting, pack away one pound of pulled pork, two slices of extra large brisket, one whole smoked chicken, one pound of brined smoked turkey, four beef sausage links, three slices of garlic toast, loaded smoked potatoes and coleslaw.
For drinks, they have mix of sodas, including locally bottled Twigs, and a combination of domestic and imported beer.
The indoor dining is a simple red-and-white checkered tablecloth affair but by the grand opening the weather should be nice enough to dine on the screened-in front porch.
Verhalen is also thinking of adding picnic tables outside.
Take-out is another option but Verhalen found a small niche in selling their meats in pre-cooked frozen vacuum-sealed packages.
“We’ve been selling a lot by just word of mouth. Weyauwega and Fremont don’t have any grocery stores. So just nice having a place where people can stop by for a couple pounds of brisket, or pork or turkey,” she said.
Some customers want it fresh from the smokehouse and will put in an order and pick it up the same day.
“I’ve had a lot of fisherman coming off the lake and say ‘I want a pound of brisket’ and we would weigh it up and they would take off back to the lake.”
The Shack is located at E6659 Wolf River Drive in Fremont. For more information visit the www.wolfrivershack.com or call 920-446-3317.