Skinny’s Smoke House
Discovering Southern BBQ
Skinny's Smokehouse is a household name here in Medicine Hat. In seven short years, an idea became a kitchen, a restaurant and now a brand we all recognize. In 2013, Todd Lindsay was a local chef. He sampled the BBQ restaurants here in Medicine Hat and wasn't impressed with the calibre of food. He could see an opportunity for authentic southern smoked BBQ, so he took the next logical step. Todd recruited a business partner and got on a plane.
Arriving in Dallas, Todd didn't even wait to leave the airport before sitting down at a restaurant to see what the states had to offer. "It was amazing. An airport BBQ restaurant in Texas was better than any BBQ I'd had in the Hat." Todd had landed in the right place. His next stop was a Kentucky BBQ festival. As he watched the best chefs in the Southern BBQ world compete for smoked meat dominance, Todd knew that tasting and watching wouldn't be enough to bring his vision back to Medicine Hat.
"I hung around till it was all over and just started talking to one of the guys, Carey Brindle, he owns a BBQ place in Nashville called "The Peg Leg Porker." I told him where we were from and what we were trying to do. He said that he couldn't show me much here, but if I came to his restaurant on Monday, he'd show me everything I wanted to know."
Carey opened his doors and brought Todd in. From that moment on, Todd has been committed to following the meticulous techniques and traditions that make smoked meat such a rare and exciting taste. Todd credits a lot of his success to Carey's openness and passion for sharing his techniques. After visiting a few more states and ingesting as much as they could, Todd headed back to Medicine Hat to share what he had learned with us all.
Medicine Hat born and braised
Once home, Todd quickly set about gathering equipment and testing ingredients. It became clear early on that he was not going to fully replicate the same tastes as he had experienced in Texas. The ingredients were local and therefore tasted different. Todd was no longer cooking Southern BBQ. He was cooking Southern Alberta BBQ. Skinny's was born.
Operating out of a kitchen in Riverside, Skinny's started as a catering company with an occasional stall at the Medalta Market. Soon the word got out, and every day a steady stream of people would arrive at the doors to ask when they could come in and eat. A cash register and tables were brought in, "It was very busy… We would cook what we thought we needed for the day, and often we were sold out by six o'clock!" remembers Todd.
It was evident that a new bigger space was going to be needed, and so Skinny's took the leap into the big leagues.
The new building out in Box Springs was a big step; going from 20 seats to 200 has its challenges. Not all of Skinny's customers appreciated the move. Josh Bennett had joined the team at the new location and shared in Todd's vision. Josh became the General Manager and started trying to attract some of the lost customers, back to the growing brand.
When Todd was on his fact-finding mission in Texas, he noticed that many restaurants had open BBQ halls. That was the feeling that Skinny's tried to emulate in the Box Springs location. After opening, it became apparent that Hatters wanted a more intimate experience. Renovations have recently taken place to create a less "hall type" interior and instead a more traditional restaurant atmosphere. Which further deepens the sense that Skinny's is an Albertan brand of Southern BBQ.
Bringing it home
2020 has been a tough year to own a restaurant, but Skinny's remains open. If you get a chance to speak to Todd or Josh, the conversation will not be about pandemics or setbacks…Instead, they are more apt to share what they have added to the menu, excitedly. Expanding the smoked BBQ scene here in Southern Alberta remains their number one focus.
Josh and Todd are always eager to talk to smoked meat enthusiasts. They are more than happy to share their thoughts on different smoker brands, cook times, etc. For those of us not quite ready for a ten-hour stint monitoring the temperature of a smoker, you can order a smoked brisket to take home and tell your friends that you smoked it. Skinny's can keep a secret.