Barbecue – and ‘The Bear’ – return to former Flip’s restaurant

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Moe's Original BBQ, which opened Saturday, offers a mix of barbecue and traditional soul food. Courtesy photos.
Moe’s Original BBQ, which opened Saturday, offers a mix of barbecue and traditional soul food. Courtesy photos.

The smell of smoked meat is once again wafting through a former Wilmington barbecue fixture.

Moe’s Original BBQ opened its doors Saturday at the old Flip’s Bar-B-Que House location, 5818 Oleander Drive. The mainstay joint, which originally opened in 1950 before moving to the Oleander Drive spot in 1957, closed in 2013.

And Flip’s fans never fear–the bear’s still there.

Moe's opened up in the old Flip's Bar-B-Cue House, a longtime local fixture until its closing in 2013.
Moe’s opened up in the old Flip’s Bar-B-Cue House, a longtime local fixture until its closing in 2013.

It’s the question Robert Ray, who owns the two Mellow Mushroom restaurants in town with business partner Kevin Dukes, got the most when he started telling people about their plans to get into the barbecue business. The unofficial mascot of sorts–a stuffed bear that stood in Flip’s for decades–now boasts a Moe’s t-shirt.

That nod to tradition–with a unique spin–remains at the heart of Ray’s mission to bring ribs and pulled meat back to the Port City. And it’s part of what makes the Moe’s name so palatable to barbecue enthusiasts as far east as Maine and spanning to the West Coast.

With the opening of the Wilmington location, the Moe’s Original BBQ franchise now boasts 40 locations. It’s an impressive feat, considering the restaurant was created by three Alabama boys in an old 40-foot horse trailer nearly 15 years ago near Vail, Colorado.

“We spread our southern ways across the country,” Jeff Kennedy, one of Moe’s three founders, told 98.3 FM The Penguin host Kim Czornij. “We started cooking and got people hooked pretty quick on our good unique taste and experiment.”

It hooked Ray, too.

After eating at a Moe’s about four years ago, Ray immediately began trying to figure out how to bring one here.

In a nod to tradition, Moe's has kept Flip's unofficial mascot and fan favorite--a stuffed bear.
In a nod to tradition, Moe’s has kept Flip’s unofficial mascot and fan favorite–a stuffed bear.

“Obviously, we have been doing Mellow for awhile and I don’t think we were really setting out looking for something new but I discovered these guys on a ski trip in Vail…After I left, I asked who do I need to call to get the ball rolling here in Wilmington?” Ray recalled.

Since its inception in 2001, Moe’s has stayed true to its blend of two Southern favorites–barbecue and soul food, crafted from time-honored recipes.

“We really try to bring the two together in a very unique setting,” Kennedy noted. “So, good food, good music, cool vibe.”

And 20 beers, including some locally made brews, doesn’t hurt, Ray added.

Ray said he has been “tickled” by the turnout and response to the Wilmington Moe’s thus far, even from those coming in and expecting “Flip’s resurrected.”

In addition to barbecue staples, Moe’s serves up a rotating menu of soul-inspired sides like black-eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread and, of course, banana pudding.

Sides change daily. Menus and more information about Moe’s can be found on its Facebook page.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.