Mayor James Maley and Commissioner Joan Leonard joined staff of restaurant Tuesday afternoon to officially cut the ribbon on Collingswood's newest business.
At 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, the group gathered outside of Little Louie's BBQ—located at 505 Haddon Ave.—and helped part-owner, pitmaster and head chef Gerald Dougherty kick-off the grand opening.
"Oh, it was awesome," Dougherty said of the turnout at Tuesday's ribbon-cutting. "We also did a series of runs (last week, in which guests were invited to sample restaurant fare), and the turnout on those was very, very good."
But Dougherty said the ribbon-cutting served as a start to success.
"I think, by this weekend, we'll be (operating) full-throttle," he said.
Dougherty, a restaurateur with various fine-dining establishments under his belt, hails from Philadelphia and admits the barbecue venture—and New Jersey's restaurant scene—are new to him.
"I've had a lot of restaurants, but all based in Philadelphia," he said. "This is all brand new, the whole Jersey thing. But after hearing about what Collingswood was—and what it is now—I think its downtown atmosphere will benefit us hugely.
"Most of my (former) restaurants didn't utilize barbecue," said Dougherty. "But barbecue has been an interest that became a passion for me."
Dougherty said he was trained in culinary arts as an apprentice to Philadelphia-based master chef Soren Arnoldi, who is now deceased, but operated a culinary institute, owned restaurants in Philadelphia, and taught culinary arts at Rhode Island college Johnson & Wales University.
"I apprenticed (with Arnoldi), and I've been cooking ever since, for 20-some years now," said Dougherty. "My latest (barbecue) venture, and the whole concept of Little Louie's, is meant to be a quick dining experience that's casual, fun and very appealing."
That means Little Louie's won't yield the average, sit-and-wait-for-a-server dining experience.
Patrons entering the restaurant are immediately met with a board featuring menu selections. After ordering a dish at the counter, diners then sit at a table and wait for a server to deliver their food.
The simplistic operation requires as few as eight employees, including a max of two servers, three kitchen staff—including Dougherty—two cashiers, and a few other staffers used on an as-needed basis.
Little Louie's menu features starters like the Savory Cherrywood-Smoked Duck in a Blanket, and the Burnt-End Nachos, which feature tasty ends of smoked brisket with guacamole, black beans, Monterey jack cheese, jalapenos and tomato salsa in a green onion cilantro cream sauce.
Entrees include items like the hickory-smoked salmon dish, and the grits with sausage and shrimp, featuring buffalo-chorizo sausage which Dougherty makes in-house.
Dougherty's new digs seat about 50 guests, and he expects to potentially implement outdoor seating this coming spring.
But in the meantime, Dougherty's enjoying the restaurant's newness—just as much as the general public.
After noticing Tuesday's ribbon-cutting festivities out front of Little Louie's, a bus driver even slowed to a complete stop on Haddon Avenue to take photos on her mobile phone.
And the community's warm response is exactly what Dougherty hoped for.
"I chose (Collingswood) because of what's happening here in the community. It's a great little downtown district, very restaurant-friendly," he said. "I think we hit a home run (with Little Louie's BBQ). I'm just waiting to see if we hit it out of the park."
As of yesterday—Tuesday, Nov. 1—Little Louie's BBQ will be open Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon to 9 p.m.