Wilson’s Bar-B-Q in North Side’s Perry South neighborhood ‘opening soon’
As Ira Lewis talked about plans to reopen Wilson’s Bar-B-Q on Thursday, the phone kept ringing with people inquiring about when the eatery will open.
“People have been waiting,” Lewis said. “When I come in every day, there are 60-plus calls. And there are Facebook messages and texts.”
Lewis doesn’t have a specific date, but he said “soon.”
The establishment, located in Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood of Perry South, was a staple in the community until a fire in 2019. Lewis’ cousin George Wilson Jr. was the previous owner of the place located on North Taylor Avenue. Wilson wasn’t able to recover from that loss to rebuild the family business.
That’s when Lewis, 37, stepped in. A Pittsburgh Police officer in charge of security in the City-County Building, Downtown and real estate developer, he knows how much the business means not only to the North Side community — but to his family for more than five decades
“I needed to step in and pick up the pieces,” Lewis said. “I’ve gotten so much support from my family and from the community. A lot of my family members grew up in this business. Not many African American families have a business that’s survived this long.”
He recalled working there as his first job doing whatever needed to be done.
Lewis, who grew up on the North Side and lives in the West End, is waiting for final approvals from the Allegheny County Health Department and the City of Pittsburgh. He said it’s been a challenging time but will all be worth it once the doors open.
Lewis hired back some of the same employees. His great uncle will also be involved to handle day-to-day operations. They are the foundation of what has made Wilson’s successful for 60 years. They know how to prepare the tastiest baby back and St. Louis barbecue ribs and chicken, all topped with the family’s secret recipe of homemade sauce, Lewis said.
There will be mild and hot sauces, which is super hot, Lewis said. Sides will be macaroni and cheese, potato salad, greens and cornbread. The meat will be smoked outside.
The inside of the building has been completely refurbished and all new equipment has been installed. There is an apartment upstairs. Lewis owns several places that he’s refurbished into affordable housing. He plans to buy the adjacent lot and create dine-in and outdoor spaces. Lewis wants to have live entertainment.