Ready for return of the ribs

La Plata awaits reopening of T&J

Friday, Aug. 29, 2008

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Staff photo by GARY SMITH
T&J Bar-B-Q 2nd Generation is nearly ready to reopen in a new building on the same property in La Plata, after the longtime town favorite was destroyed by fire in May 2007.

Vincent H. Jameson Jr. is ready for business.

Since his La Plata rib and chicken carryout operation, T&J Bar-B-Q, burned down after a kitchen fire spiraled out of control last May, he’s been waiting for the day when he could stop trucking for a living and finally open his doors again to dozens of loyal customers.

The 955-square-foot structure, renamed T&J Bar-B-Q 2nd Generation, built new from the ground up in the same location as before at 7670 Hawthorne Road, took longer than the four months Jameson had predicted, because necessary updates had to be made and there was a lengthy processing time for building code inspections, updates and permits.

‘‘The whole building is different,” Jameson said. ‘‘The quickest way to get back in business was to build it the same way in the same spot. The building was 20, 25 years old and there was nothing there, just four brick walls and a little interior. It’s been a difficult year.”

The pit has been a local favorite since Vincent Jameson Sr. first opened it about 20 years ago with Leon Thornton, Jameson Jr.’s uncle, because he’d always wanted to run a family-owned business that served homestyle meat, beans and cold salads. Thornton owns the property and represents the ‘‘T” in T&J. He provided the financial backing to build the new place.

Jameson Sr. said he’s looking forward to the business, which his son took over about five years ago reopening, and checking in on the place and seeing old customers.

‘‘Everybody knows me because they used to call me ‘the fat cook,’” he said. ‘‘I was sad [when the fire happened]. I missed all my customers and all my good people who come there. I go down and look around once in a while. I keep my eye on everything. It’s beautiful, some kind of gorgeous. I’ll go down every day.”

The building on the outside isn’t too different from its old appearance.

‘‘We want to keep with the history and tradition of the building,” Jameson Jr. said.

But it features all the updated bells and whistles to make sure it won’t be consumed by flames again — fire-proof steel around the grills, sprinkler systems and grease traps, for example.

Jameson wouldn’t say how much the new building on 2.88 acres cost, but the tax-assessed value of the recently completed structure and property was $412,000 as of July 1.

Over the last year, Jameson has dabbled in catering but has mostly been making a living as a truck driver and will be happy to quit for the restaurant business because fuel costs are a burden, he said.

‘‘I’m kind of juggling between the trucking and the catering,” Jameson said. ‘‘When we open up, I’m going at it full force. We’re looking forward to seeing the old customers. It was a family business and a lot of local patrons. I’m looking to get back in the business.”

Jameson also can’t wait to start applying the pit’s ‘‘secret” sauce to three new menu items – the ‘‘Little V” platter, named after Jameson’s 5-year-old son Vincent III, the ‘‘Indian Man” platter, named after Numa Sylvie, who helped Jameson’s father run the pit years ago, and the ‘‘Fat Cook” platter, named for Jameson Sr.

‘‘You don’t even need barbecue sauce,” he said.

Charles County Commissioner Samuel N. Graves Jr. (D) said he used to frequent T&J at least once a week and said he plans to attend a grand opening celebration whenever it’s scheduled.

‘‘I’m so loyal there because I think they have one of the better barbecue pits in all of Southern Maryland because they slow cook the meat over low heat and the smoke flavor of the meat goes through real well,” he said. ‘‘I’ve been a patron of them for many years. Over the years, I’ve developed a friendship with them. It should be exciting.”

Jameson said if all goes well, he will consider expanding by adding a new location, maybe local, maybe in a place such as Bowie, or possibly even franchising.

‘‘It depends on the business,” he said.

T&J Bar-B-Q 2nd Generation will open to the public in a ‘‘soft” reopening this weekend for Labor Day, and plans a grand reopening celebration next weekend, according to Jameson Jr.