Ohio City BBQ will soon bring a touch of Memphis to Cleveland

For weeks, curious and hungry pedestrians have been popping into the new Ohio City BBQ, only to be turned away by owner Nav Singh, who assures the Memphis-style barbeque joint will be opening any day now in the former Ohio City Tattoo space at 3829 Lorain Ave.

"We’re about 90 percent done, but we still have inspections to go through," explains Singh. "We’ve been trying to open since April, but the universe has its plan so we’re taking it day by day. And I want to open up right.”

When Ohio City BBQ does open, Singh promises a taste sensation with his “simple” Memphis-style barbeque menu—brisket, ribs, and pork slow-cooked for up to 10 hours over hickory in Singh’s Southern Pride smoker.

A self-proclaimed “pit master in training,” Singh plans to use mesquite and applewood to smoke his meats, in addition to the traditional hickory. “It will all be made on-site, with nothing pre-smoked or pre-cooked,” he says.

But Singh says his real “secret weapon" is his chef—35-year culinary veteran and local/national rib cookoff champion Gary Carrino of Blazin Bronco BBQ. “We’ll be collaborating together with rubs, sauce, and other recipes,” says Singh, adding that the restaurant will display one of Carrino’s Cleveland Great American Rib Cookoff trophies.

Singh came to Cleveland from Toronto four years ago with the intention of opening a pizza shop. But after visiting a friend in Collierville, Tennessee (outside of Memphis), he switched his focus to barbeque. “We wanted to bring that flavor here,” he says.

The decision to open in Ohio City was a no-brainer for Singh, who had toured Ohio City real estate options and was impressed with the economic development just beginning in the neighborhood. His family bought the building after a 16-month search for the perfect Ohio City location.

The 2,000-square-foot storefront will only offer takeout when it opens, but Singh’s future plans call for seating and a patio in the back. Singh is also working on securing a liquor license.

The walls are covered with Singh’s collection of more than 500 photos of rock stars from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Additional rock and roll décor features Elvis, the Beach Boys (“when they were younger”), Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, just to name a few.

“It ties in the theme, and hopefully some of the millennials who come in will recognize them,” Singh jokes. “I didn’t want to put 70-inch televisions in—everyone does that. I wanted to keep it old school.”

In fact, Singh has partnered with the Rock Hall to offer 30-percent-off museum coupons to patrons who eat at Ohio City BBQ.

Singh is confident he will be announcing Ohio City BBQ’s grand opening soon. Upon opening, the restaurant's hours will be Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m. He may extend the hours if the demand is there.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.