Bubba’s Eastern North Carolina Barbecue

Romancing The Brand

As a kid growing up in my part of Wisconsin, barbecue was a bratwurst cooked over charcoal and then simmered in beer and onions. That or a hotdog cooked the same way, or a hamburger for that matter.  I think it was the German heritage of the area that drove our tastes. My family would put almost any meat in beer. We even put cheese in beer (although I think that was the other way ‘round). But over in Sheboygan, cooking brats was not thought of as barbecue; they were called brat fries, as in “Hey, let’s fry out some brats and have some beers, eh?”

So I understood perfectly when Ralph (Bubba) Miller started to explain the nuances of Bubba’s Eastern North Carolina Barbecue during our first meeting. I even cut him some slack when he became impassioned about which style of barbecue is better (of course every fact points to Bubba’s Eastern North Carolina Barbecue, not that Piedmont , ketchup- saturated concoction being sold as barbecue, but which is something other entirely).

And when you talk to Bubba, you get a lot of opinion mixed in with his facts. His conversational style is slow, confident and dripping with irony and subtle jokes. And this same style permeates his restaurant. As an example, out front he has two pig sculptures flanking the door, like lions posed in front of a library (although not nearly as menacing). And a sign boasts Jacob Von Hogflume, Inventor of Time Travel, who reportedly Ate (past tense his) at Bubba’s in 2063.

Inside, the restaurant is somewhat like a card-club basement with yellow-checkered tablecloths, old-fashioned wood paneling and big, black plastic chairs. Bubba’s sense of style and dry humor is present here as well. When you use the urinal in the men’s room there is a sign at eye level with two arrows and the words “men” and “boys” on it. The arrow next to “men” points to a urinal about 8 feet off the floor. The word “boys” corresponds to the urinal you’re standing at (it turns out I’m a boy, since I didn’t even attempt to shoot at the “men” urinal, and I’m sure Bubba was just as happy with my decision on that as I was).

Work With People You Trust

Good design has a lot to do with respect. And in the case of a great menu design, you need to work with someone you like and who can help you make decisions about how you will be represented to your customers. Remember what you’re paying for: their expertise and time. Value both, and you will get a better design in the end. Micromanage either, and you will not only get a less impressive finished piece, but you will also not get their best effort.


September 12, 2014


Business, Menu Design, Menu Design Engineering