Blue Dog BBQ to take over Heavy Seas Alehouse space in Little Italy, targeting July opening

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An Arnold-based barbecue purveyor specializing in wood-smoked, whole-hog ‘cue is taking over the newly vacant Heavy Seas Alehouse space on Bank Street.

Blue Dog BBQ Company will open its first brick-and-mortar spot at 1300 Bank Street in Little Italy in July, its owners announced Monday. Founders Jon Royce and Sean Stoll are teaming up with Mike Neall, co-owner of The Point Crabhouse and Grill, also in Arnold, on the restaurant. The location will be open six days a week for lunch and dinner.

In addition to pulled pork, their menu will include spare ribs, two types of chicken, smashed and made-to-order burgers, a fried chicken sandwich and a range of appetizers, from tacos to loaded fries to “random snacks of our choice,” Stoll said in an interview. The snacks will be served to customers who stop in at the bar for “snack time” from 2 to 3 p.m., ahead of happy hour.

Stoll said he expects their eatery will “fill a void, but in a complementary way” for Baltimore’s barbecue scene. The reason: Their barbecue comes from the whole hog, and is smoked entirely with wood.

“It’s leaner and much more tasty than a traditional pulled pork sandwich,” he said, adding, “and there’s nothing more fun than taking a whole [pig] and tending a fire for 10 to 12 hours.”

They’re not kidding about the timeframe for smoking. Stoll, Royce or other staff will be tending to the wood fire most nights, kicking it off around 1 or 2 a.m. The effort is worth it, Stoll says: “The flavor it puts on the meat is just spectacular.”

Stoll has been cooking with barbecue for about 10 years–including on the competitive circuit with his uncle, where he “developed a love and passion” for it, he says–and Royce has nearly three decades of restaurant industry experience. They started their company roughly a year and a half ago, operating out of a kitchen and catering space in Arnold.

Royce said they’ve largely cooked for parties and corporate events while catering, but that “the endgame was always that we’re gonna lead up to a brick-and-mortar location where we can bring this to the masses.”

Their planned arrival comes on the heels of the closure of Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Alehouse, which operated for six years in the Bank Street space in Little Italy. Its owners had licensed the Halethorpe brewery’s name and brand, and carried a long list of Heavy Seas beers to pair with bar food and entries, though Heavy Seas’ founder, Hugh Sisson, did not have any stake in the location. Another Heavy Seas Alehouse location in Arlington, Virginia, remains open.

A manager of the now-shuttered Baltimore location first confirmed the Alehouse’s sudden closure to Baltimore Fishbowl last Wednesday. Its final day serving customers was Saturday.

Blue Dog BBQ are announcing their plans about five months after the closure of Syracuse-based Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s Baltimore franchise at 1401 Fleet Street, located just two blocks south of the Tack Factory Building.

In a sign of good faith to the former tenants and their customers, Royce and Stoll plan to honor all Heavy Seas Alehouse gift cards at Blue Dog BBQ for six months.

Royce nodded to some existing great barbecue options in the Baltimore area, including Smoke in Cockeysville and Big Bad Wolf on Harford Road. They’re excited to join the mix with something new, he said.

“We both love the city, so it’s actually kind of exciting for us to come up there and be part of that already burgeoning restaurant community,” Stoll said.

This story has been updated. An earlier version of this story said Blue Dog BBQ was based in Nokesville, Virginia, pointing to another company with the same name. We regret the error.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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