Smoky Martin's BBQ to be featured on internet independent restaurant show

Apr. 20—Ron "Smoky" Martin didn't foresee his hobby becoming the successful career it has been for more than the past decade.

"I had no idea it would turn out the way it has," said Martin, who has operated Smoky Martin's BBQ since 2013.

Smoking and barbecuing meat started as a hobby for Martin, who would cook on weekends for family and friends. It evolved into a full-fledged career following retirement after 26 years driving for trucking and logistics firm Pitt Ohio Express of Pittsburgh.

Smoky Martins BBQ opened a mobile food trailer for business twice a week — Tuesdays in Meadville and Thursdays in Cochranton, with Fridays reserved for weekend catering preparation.

By 2016, the business had grown so much Martin opened the current brick-and-mortar location at 1206 Park Avenue in Meadville.

Success has attracted the attention of America's Best Restaurants, a national media and marketing company focused on bringing attention to local, independently-owned restaurants. From 9 a.m. to noon April 29, the company visits Meadville to tape an online episode about Smoky Martin's BBQ.

"They contacted us in fall of 2023 about filming," Martin said. "We fit their criteria — mom-and-pop-type restaurants."

"They want us to do our specialties, so we're going to do a pizza, a brisket and some ribs on the smoker.'

Brisket is a cut of beef taken from a cow's lower breast or pectoral muscles and used in a low and slow barbecue cooking process.

Martin added a wood-fired pizza oven a few years back to stand out from the crowd locally.

"We've got a Mugnaini wood-fired oven, the same as Guy Fieri," Martin said proudly, referencing the famous restaurateur and Food Network TV host. "We brought in the grande cheese, the higher-end New York-style pizzas," he said.

In addition to featuring the food, the company will interview Martin about the restaurant's special place in the community.

"Our goal is kinda to shut down Park Avenue with people who want to come see it," Martin said with a laugh of the April 29 video shoot.

Martin is quick to credit the community, his family — especially his wife, Melissa — and employees with the business' success.

"The community has really supported us — that's the key to any small business like this, community support," Martin said. "Crawford County and Meadville have done that."

"Being involved in the community has helped us a lot," he continued, noting that involvement with the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber has been beneficial, too.

Smoky Martin's BBQ has four other employees outside Martin and Ryan King, the general manager.

And family helps out, especially with catering jobs.

"We do a lot of catering jobs. We'll do 10 to 15 weddings a year. There's a lot of barn-style weddings, and barbecue goes well with it," he said.

"My wife, Melissa, does stuff behind the scenes — especially the paperwork. We have family help on the catering. The women do a better job with presentation than I do," Martin said with a chuckle.

In addition, there are a lot of large corporate catering events, too, such as Meadville Medical Center, he said. "We feed about 1,200 people spread out over three days at three locations," he said.

Once the upcoming video shoot is edited into an episode, its premiere date will be announced on Smoky Martin's Facebook page and will be featured on America's Best Restaurants' website at

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at