Two barbecue lovers have combined their talent and skills to launch Sun Prairie-based Primal Cue.
Already with one year under their belt, Primal Cue owners Andrew Bajakian and Brandon Bay are starting this mobile food season off strong after winter hibernation and the COVID-19 pandemic safer-at-home delay.
The guys are primed for the Primal Cue pop-up event on Saturday, July 18 from 4-6 p.m. at the Pavilion at Angell Park. Those hungry for barbecue need to pre-order by July 15 on Primal Cue’s Facebook page. The star of the show at Saturday’s event will be chopped pork with a Carolina-style barbecue sauce.
Focusing on the basics, Bajakian and Bay use wood, fire and smoke to turn meats into pure pleasure, devoting 18-24 hours to tending the fires to get superb flavors. Gas or charcoal assisted smoking isn’t even on their radar—-that’s why they call their business Primal Cue—turning back to the tried-and-true basics.
“Brandon and I are pretty proud of the way we have brought barbecue back to its traditions,” Bajakian said.
While stationed in the United States Army bases down south, Bajakian fell in love with barbecue. For Bay, barbecue was a family tradition, learning to smoke turkeys for Thanksgiving with his dad.
“He told me to don’t stop learning and think you are the best,” Bay remembers of his first mentor of barbecue. “He taught me to just absorb new information and use it to my advantage.”
Bajakian turned to a career in food service after he left the Army and used his GI Bill to get a degree at MATC in culinary arts and small business entrepreneurship. Bay, with many years working at restaurants, was an instructor at MATC culinary department when he met Bajakian.
The duo ended up working at the same restaurant, and during a particularly hard shift decided to strike on their own.
“Out of frustration that night, we said let’s go for it,” Bajakian said of the motivation to build a business plan and start Primal Cue.
They honed in on the Primal Cue rig in the spring of 2019, purchasing it from a custom builder in Kentucky and pretty soon were out in the Sun Prairie/Madison area doing catering and pop-up events. Right away they got some great reviews from customers at one of their first tryouts at Beans n Cream in Sun Prairie.
“We thought we would just dip our toes in the water the first year, but with the customers’ response, they pushed us headlong into the pool,” Bajakian said.
Primal Cue also caters, but with COVID-19 restrictions in place, it’s now set up for drop-off, no-contact delivery. Smoked pulled pork, chicken and brisket are all on the menu, along with sides of barbecue baked beans, creamy coleslaw, potato salad, Primal corn and cornbread.
Sauces include traditional sweet barbecue sauce, mustard-based barbecue sauce, and vinegar base—a trio that reflects regional favorites around the United States. Primal Cue also just started making its dry rub seasoning available for sale, something that was a hit for Father’s Day gifts.
The plan is to eventually open a brick-and-mortar Primal Cue restaurant but Bay and Bajakian are content right now to stay mobile. They want to partner with other businesses and organizations for food events in the future.
At Saturday’s event, Bajakian and Bay welcome people to stay awhile and ask them about their barbecue (they will be wearing face masks and keeping six-feet distancing social distance, of course), especially customers who have never tried Primal Cue.
“Just give a shot,” Bay said. “If you think that you have had great barbecue in the Madison area, come out and try us, we may change your mind.”
More info on Primal Cue at www.primalcue.com, Facebook, or by calling (608) 709-9277. Primal Cue’s no-contact pop-up event is Saturday, July 18 from 4-6 p.m. at Angell Park Pavilion. Pre-orders cut-off is Wednesday, July 15.