Interview with a Local: Meghan Love of Mable’s Smokehouse
Mable’s Smokehouse has been a neighborhood gem in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since it opened in 2012. A BBQ joint is a bit unorthodox for the neighborhood and perhaps that is precisely why it’s so beloved – plus the food is incredible. Praised by the New York Times, Food & Wine Magazine, Eater, Travel Channel, New York Magazine, The Village Voice and many many more. We were fortunate to chat with Meghan Love, of the husband (Jeff Lutonsky) and wife team behind it all.
How did you come to open Mable’s Smokehouse?
Jeff and I met in NYC – we were both working in the arts. I as an actress and he as a visual artist and gallerist/art dealer. When the recession in 2009 happened, people weren’t really buying art and we were both itching for a change. Around that time Jeff’s mother died and left him a small inheritance- we wanted to find a way to honor her and his late grandmother, Mable. They were the people that taught him to cook and passed down family food traditions, so we thought what better way to use that money than to open a restaurant using those recipes- and the rest is history!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?
I grew up in Louisville Kentucky in a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather started what became a chain of furniture stores and my mother took over that family business. I have worked since I could walk practically, for my mom, for other people- whoever would hire me! I think Jeff and I both have extremely strong work ethics- he grew up either working in his mother’s restaurants or his father’s cattle ranch in Oklahoma. We both ultimately went into the arts but yearned to create something of our own. We often say that Mable’s is the longest running art piece we have ever created. I think in inception you have to treat it like an art installation and operating it is like a long running piece of theater. I was an actress in NY for many years so I also worked as a bartender and a waiter at some of NY’s top restaurants.
What do you love about owning Mable’s?
I have always been sort of addicted to the restaurant business – I have worked in the industry in some capacity for over 20 years. I just find it to be so much fun! There is something so special about true hospitality- I still get chills when I have one of those magical interactions with a guest. When they are loving the food and the service and I am 100% there for them- it truly is a great joy of my life. Plus, I think the fact that we went out on a limb in NY and opened something that was not the norm was a risk- we said we are just going to be totally and completely ourselves and see if people like it. And they did. That feels really good.
Mable’s is a true neighborhood gem. What’s on tap as far as special events or new menu items?
Well, we had our first annual Dolly Parton Look Alike Contest this year-it was bananas. It was a great success- wacky, weird, messy and beautiful! We definitely will make that an annual event! Our KY Derby Party is like a holiday for us- we humbly think we throw the best one around. We’ve got some fun tricks up our sleeves, so stay tuned.
The food is fantastic! Have you catered events or weddings?
We do a ton of catering and weddings are our thing! We have ten on the books for this year. We just find that our food translates really well in an off-site environment and every wedding that we do the guests say: I have never had seconds of WEDDING FOOD. They sometimes lick the plate. That’s a pretty good indication that we are doing it right.
I’m vegetarian and am obsessed with the veggie BBQ — it’s so good! What’s the secret?
It’s all about the sauce. It’s good on everything- meat, veggies, fish, eggs, and even veggie meat! It is a recipe that Jeff’s grandmother, Mable learned as a girl working in a roadside diner in Oklahoma and we really haven’t changed it. That’s why it’s called “Liquid Country Gold”.
As you know, we are all about local … can you share a few of your favorites places in the neighborhood or NYC?
Gosh, there are so many, Jeff and I love to eat out! We love the local Polish Food in Greenpoint- especially Karczma. Some of our other favorite local restaurants are Kings County Imperial, Cafe Mogodor and Sweetwater. I think my favorite place in NYC is the Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. It’s old school and elegant and quintessentially NY- and the bartenders are the best in the business.
Can you share a favorite NYC moment?
I used to wait tables at Pastis in the Meatpacking District. One day I was walking into work and listening to the Velvet Underground on my headphones. Lou Reed was coming out as I was going in. That was pretty cool. Wow, that is truly a great NYC moment!
Thanks so much for talking with us! We will see you soon on the next Williamsburg Bites Brooklyn Food Tour!