The Sugar Pine Smokehouse in Madera will use tables made of salvaged wood when it opens in November. Photo contributed by Dustin Franklin
Written by Edward Smith
Correction: A previous version of this story quoted Julie Herd of the Madera Economic Development Commission as saying that The Vineyard Restaurant and Bar was the only other restaurant in Madera. She meant that it was the only high-end restaurant.
A Madera restaurateur seeks to provide a “blue-collar” experience with a new smokehouse that is currently in the works.
Sugar Pine Smokehouse, named after the historic railroad in Madera County, is scheduled to open in November at the former Cool Hand Luke’s location at 1830 W. Cleveland Ave., according to operator Dustin Franklin, who is also co-owner of The Tap House, a nearby pub.
Franklin wanted to provide Maderans with the sort of dining options they would normally have to drive to Fresno to get for a sit-down dinner. Beyond the smoked meats, ribs and porkbellies, the restaurant will also embrace Madera’s history with models of historic buildings and a log flume, as well as tables sourced locally from bark-beetle-eaten wood. Franklin, who grew up in the area, wants to capture the “log cabin and pine-tree” feel, he said.
The staple will be the barbecue. A smoker was brought in that can cook 120 racks of ribs at a time. The brisket will be smoked for 12-18 hours while the ribs will take about 6 hours, according to head chef Pete Galindo. He uses hickory wood and a dry rub as locally-sourced as the rest of the restaurant. The seafood will come from Central Fish Co. in Fresno.
“The meat is extensive but reasonably priced to fit that blue-collar model,” he said.
The restaurant sits near the Madera Fairgrounds, which gives Franklin good proximity to a healthy downtown lunch crowd. To accommodate that, his goal is to have lunch meals out within 15 minutes of ordering. Extra staff will be available to get patrons out as fast as possible,” he said.
There will also be a full bar and a mixologist who personally developed the drink menu. Fans of Old-Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails can enjoy their drinks with homemade bitters and will even be able to see the Sugar Pine Smokehouse logo on each large cube of ice that lasts for 40 minutes before melting, Franklin said.
The 7,000 square foot property will have a patio and two banquet halls. Franklin hired an events coordinator, and they’ve already begun talking with clubs and election parties.
While Sugar Pine Smokehouse is Franklin’s first foray into the restaurant industry, he is no stranger to the hospitality market. In the ten years he worked as a beer salesman for a distributor, he says he was able to meet restaurant owners and pick their brains while also doing his pitch.
The Cool Hand Luke’s had not been closed for long before people had begun looking to fill it.
The Madera Economic Development Commission worked with both the property owners, Newman Development and Franklin to get the space, which had been empty since earlier this year, filled, according to Julie Herd, business development manager for the commission.
Cool Hand Luke’s had been open for at least four years, and so the hope is the demand for a barbecue-style restaurant has already been established.
“Madera is a small town and there’s only one restaurant and no place for people to go without going to Fresno,” Franklin said. “What I’m trying to do is bring some excitement here to get people to stick around.”