AURORA — In a bid for more space, Ol’Chefskis BBQ is renovating a property closer to the center of town with plans to open a new location some time in late March or early April.
"We exceeded everything we had in terms of parking, seating capacity and the amount of food we could cook," said Jason Olszewski, who owns the property with his wife, Grace.
The business started as another food option at Beck’s Farm and Market at 1199 E. Garfield Road in Aurora.
"We set up there at the end of 2016 and sold food for a couple months, and the next year we set up a stand there that we converted into a mobile kitchen," explained Grace.
Since then, the business has expanded beyond their wildest expectations, she said.
"We were opening at noon, and at 4 p.m. we were running out of food, and there wasn’t much we could do about it," said Grace.
The new location at 15 Trails End used to be a maintenance shop for the Aurora Country Club. It offers more space, but Jason said the 1,600-square-foot building still maintains a rural, cozy feel inside. It’s located at the corner of New Hudson Road, just south of the former railroad depot off Garfield Road and near the entrance to Paddock River Preserve.
"We cooked out of a little barn," he said. "It’s what you would find on the roadside in North Carolina and Georgia. You’ve got barbecue restaurants, and you’ve got barbecue joints. We’re a joint; we’re not a chain; we’re what you’d find if you drove 600 miles south."
When they started Ol’Chefskis, they said it "never crossed [their] minds" that they’d end up with their own brick-and-mortar restaurant.
On a foundation of fresh meat and other ingredients, the former barbecue stand has grown organically since 2016, and Grace said she’s not worried about the expense of a permanent restaurant overwhelming them.
"I think as long as we maintain the consistency and customers we had when we were there, we’re definitely going to be able to maintain this," she said.
Along the way, the restaurant has been honored a couple times. Ol’Chefskis won the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Best Barbecue in 2018 and the Record-Courier’s Best of the Best in barbecue restaurants in 2019. The publicity from those two honors has helped the restaurant a great deal, said Jason.
"Everything is cooked fresh, daily from scratch," said Jason. "We have no freezers; we have no microwave; everything is sourced locally."
Jason said smoking meat is "an around-the-clock, 24-7 job." Some of the meat Ol’Chefskis features includes pork butt, pulled pork, pit beef, ribs, chicken and sausage. Other menu items include walking tacos, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw, fresh-cut fries and locally baked dinner dolls.
Jason said he’s been smoking meat for family and friends for 25 years, but "always manages to overdo it."
"I can’t cook a pot of chili that doesn’t cost me $150," he said.
The newly renovated barbecue joint will include seating for about 30 inside and an additional 40 or so outside during the summer, according to Grace, but much of the business will be take-out orders. Several Aurora businesses regularly place bulk orders for lunch. She said the new location will also have space for group events.
Jason said Ol’Chefskis can fill take-out orders quite quickly.
"You could take an order for eight people and be in and out of this place faster than you can get a cheeseburger sometimes at McDonald’s," he said. "We’ve got people who come from Youngstown every other weekend to have lunch. Some of our regular customers include a group of ladies who probably age between 65 and 80 who come religiously."
Grace said she hopes to hire 10 or fewer part-time employees, high school students, most likely.
Hours at the restaurant, which doesn’t yet have a firm opening date, will be Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. or until the food runs out, whichever comes first.
For more information about Ol’Chefski’s Barbecue, visit the barbecue joint’s Facebook page.
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, email@example.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.