Smokehouse pitmaster and Patois chef partner up for new Central City BBQ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANDREA MABRY -- Pitmaster Rob Bechtold at work at NOLA Smokehouse in 2014. He and chef Aaron Burgau now plan to open a new restaurant called Central City BBQ.

Working with just a pair of backyard smokers from a nondescript location in the Irish Channel, NOLA Smokehouse quickly earned a place among the best barbecue in New Orleans before the restaurant abruptly closed last year.

Now, pitmaster Rob Bechtold has new partners and a new plan for a barbecue restaurant and catering operation in Central City.

He’s working with Aaron Burgau, chef/owner of the Uptown bistro Patois and partner in Truburger, and his business partners.

Their new venture is called open Central City BBQ, and they expect it to open in the next six months.

“We’ll be doing barbecue the good old fashioned way and hopefully feeding more people with more room, more capacity,” said Bechtold.

Central City BBQ will be at 1201 S. Rampart St., in a building that was once a seafood market and Chinese food take-out joint. It has been empty for some time. There’s room here for a sit down restaurant as well as a catering facility. They eventually plan to offer whole hog barbecue catering for off site parties and events, while they plan to develop the Rampart Street location with an outdoor dining area.

The future home of Central City BBQ sits directly across the street from Paradigm Gardens, a unique urban farm and event space in which Burgau is one of the chef partners.

Rob and his wife Emily Bechtold opened NOLA Smokehouse early in 2014 in a barebones, cinderblock building on Jackson Avenue. Short on curb appeal, and with minimal amenities inside, it won loyal fans and drew attention for its slow-and-low technique.

Steve Raichlen, the author, TV host and barbecue authority, named NOLA Smokehouse among his “top 10 smoke and fire restaurants for 2014.”

They closed in October, however, citing a serious illness in the family.

Now Bechtold said those issues have improved. With partners he hopes he can build Central City BBQ into something bigger than he was able to achieve with the mom-and-pop approach at NOLA Smokehouse. That restaurant typically sold out of meats well before dinnertime.

“I think it’s about taking it to the next level, and bringing it to where it should be,” he said. “I hope that will show in the food.”

Bechtold and Burgau worked together much earlier in their careers in the kitchen at Bayona. Burgau counted himself as a fan of NOLA Smokehouse and, like Bechtold, sees the opportunity to grow a barbecue business by working together.

“He’s doing great stuff, and we think he’ll be able to do it even better with some help and support on the back end,” said Burgau.

Central City BBQ will offer barbecue catering services before Central City BBQ opens as a restaurant.

The Rampart Street location is near a hub of new development in Central City, and is a block from Dryades Public Market, the food emporium that chef Daniel Esses is building up in a former schoolhouse.

Meanwhile, the former location of NOLA Smokehouse is being redeveloped as a sandwich shop called Turkey & the Wolf, as reported earlier.

Central City BBQ

1201 S. Rampart St.

Projected opening: summer 2016

For catering, contact

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.