WHITEFISH – Last week, as cars pulled into the parking lot of a new barbecue restaurant, a large pink pig darted through the arctic air. The creature made several jerky movements and then quickly ducked back into the restaurant, a rather shocking sequence of events for a cold Tuesday in Whitefish.
It was later discovered that the pig’s name is Ham Bone. He is a representative of The Shak, a new barbecue joint on Spokane Avenue in the old Dairy Queen building.
Sherry Mayeaux, who co-owns The Shak with her husband Christopher, said employees take turns wearing the pig suit and standing outside to promote the business. Ham Bone is also civically minded and travels to community events to inform people of the wonders of barbecue.
“We want to create something like Ronald McDonald,” Sherry Mayeaux said. “He’s the Whitefish pig – the pink pig. We want people to recognize him.”
Ham Bone’s appearance last week was unusually brief and erratic, Mayeaux explained, because the temperatures that day barely cracked zero.
“He’s like, ‘It’s way too cold, I’m going inside,’” Mayeaux said.
The Mayeauxs opened up The Shak in August. While Ham Bone is a reflection of the owners’ general fun-loving nature, the pig is also an instrument for their greater vision of community involvement.
Inside the restaurant, the Mayeauxs strive to create an environment of Southern hospitality. Outside of it, they want to extend their message of hospitality into an overall good-neighbor campaign. A food drive scheduled for the second week of December is an example of that message. And a friendly pig, the Mayeauxs figure, can help spread the message.
Part of being a good neighbor, as Christopher Mayeaux’s Louisiana upbringing taught him, is cooking good food. Mayeaux said he comes from a culture in which the day revolves around planning the next meal. It is a cycle that continually puts delightful food on the table, for family members and friends alike to enjoy.
Sherry said she’s pleased to play a role in introducing that Louisiana culture to the Flathead.
“(Christopher) wanted to bring the South here, to let people try really good food,” Sherry said. “We try to capture that and offer it here.”
She added: “With the hospitality, it’s like a home environment. It’s like coming home to mom’s kitchen. Everyone wants to talk with each other.”
Christopher Mayeaux, summoning the influences of both his mother and father, said he has been cooking Southern comfort food for friends and family for many years. His dinner guests finally suggested his food was too tasty to only share with small groups.
“They just basically said, ‘Your food’s so good, you should open up a restaurant,’” Mayeaux said. “I said, ‘why not.’”
Smokers containing chunks of meat are constantly active outside of The Shak, churning out a Memphis-style barbecue that Mayeaux believes is the best the South has to offer. Mayeaux’s Memphis-style barbecue shuns the vinegar and mustard of other Southern regions, instead focusing on the flavor of slow-smoked hickory.
“Hopefully,” Mayeaux said, “you can taste the love.”
In addition to barbecue favorites like ribs and brisket, The Shak offers an assortment of Southern delicacies, including fried okra, smoked potatoes, gumbo, sweet potato fries and fried corn on the cob. One of the restaurant’s specialties is Southern fried chicken. The Shak has sold nearly 14,000 pieces of chicken in three months.
“There’s no chicken around like that,” Christopher Mayeaux said. “It’s the way my father did it.”
The menu is affordable, with a large selection of $7.99 meals that offer an entrée with two sides. The kids’ menu is only $3.99 per meal. Through the summer, tourists poured into the restaurant, but Christopher Mayeaux said his customer base is 85 percent local. The community is reaching out to the Mayeauxs and they’re reaching back with good food, hospitality and a large pink pig.
“People are coming from Bigfork, Kalispell, everywhere,” Sherry Mayeaux said. “The whole Flathead’s coming now. It’s wonderful.”
The Shak is located at 669 Spokane Ave. and can be reached at (406) 730-1070 or found online at www.shakbbq.com. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s hours are 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.
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