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Zachary’s BBQ in Norristown Pays Homage to the Soul Food People Love

Zachary’s chef Keith Taylor, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, explains why there is room in locals’ hearts for both ‘pizza night’ and ‘barbecue night.’

Chef Keith Taylor at Zachary’s BBQ. Credit: Nicole Foulke
Chef Keith Taylor at Zachary’s BBQ. Credit: Nicole Foulke

When considering his food, Keith Taylor, chef and founder of Zachary's BBQ Southern Comfort & Catering in Norristown, remembers two things:

One: “Zachary’s represents the American south. Both are connected to soul food, and that’s not black or white, but the food of your home.”

Two: “Zachary’s is 100% derivative of, and very connected to, my family.”

Zachary’s, which started primarily as a catering company in 2004, will celebrate in March their third year of having added their retail addition that offers take-out, as well as tables for customers eating their food there.

With a focus on barbecue, sandwiches, soups and southern side dishes, “Zachary’s plays homage to the soul food that everybody loves,” said Taylor.

“Philadelphia” magazine agreed, bestowing their ‘Best Barbecue’ on Zachary’s in 2012.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Cornell’s School of Hospitality and Management, Taylor has also worked for Disney and the University of Pennsylvania, now coming to rest in Norristown, where his successful catering business and retail space, which offers free parking, is located at 1709 Markley St.

Taylor talks about food spontaneously and organically, speaking in one breath about Korean Banchan appetizers, Polish dumplings and barbecue.

On a recent visit to Zachary’s, Taylor was excited to do a tasting of some of his more popular foods, which included, among others, North Carolina-style pulled pork, Cape Fear-style crab bisque, Louisiana-style seafood gumbo, and a Saint Louis-style brisket that had a lovely magenta-colored hickory smoke ring from a long smoking in Zachary’s kitchen.

“Our pulled pork is straight North Carolina, with the vinegar. That’s my grandmother,” he said.

The pork was rich but not too much so, with a hint of heat and vinegar tang. The gumbo was bright and deep yet somehow light, and sides of collards with smoked turkey and hoppin’ john, both side dishes from the south, were delicious and nourishing.

But, said Taylor, he wants people to come to Zachary’s not just for the food, but for the people who work at Zachary’s, who are always happy to see a guest.

“People travel very far to come here,” said Taylor.

He waved cheerfully to his customers waiting for their food and asked them where they were coming from. “I’m from Mont Clare,” said one man.

“I came from Bensalem, said another. 

According to Taylor, only 25% of his business comes from Norristown.

Their customers are loyal, Taylor said, and he likes to give back. “That’s why we have Chefsoul Saturdays, that’s why we have $10 Tuesdays, that’s why we have the $6.95 Senior Special,” he added.

Chefsoul Saturdays, held on the last Saturday of every month, bring blues music, barbecue, beer brewed at the nearby Prism brewery and more to Zachary’s. According to Taylor, they change the theme every month. The next will be held on Feb. 22.

There are more ideas where that came from. Taylor wants to show locals that picking up dinner to take home does not always have to end with a pizza or McDonald’s. Mothers, fathers and families can stop over and order Zachary’s hand-made food that is overseen by a friendly, local CIA-trained chef to take home and enjoy.

“We have pizza night; why can’t it be barbecue night?” he asked.

Zachary’s can also ship to colleges to give students a break from dining room food and treat them to some good, healthy soul food.

At Zachary’s, though the menu may have a generous number of offerings, from four cheese baked macaroni to a crab cake sandwich, some guests may not make it through the whole menu, though they may be a many-times-over repeat customer.

“I always get the pulled pork sandwich, said Joe Cantrell, of Norristown, as he sat, waiting for his sandwich. “I never get anything else. It is just so good.”

 

Boywonder January 27, 2014 at 06:53 PM
Zachary's is great! Best BBQ around.
Chef Keith Taylor February 28, 2014 at 11:11 PM
Even as we are approaching our third year we make mistakes and love every customer and staff member for being patient with us. Always ask for me and know that as much as we relish the compliments...we want to know what goes wrong so we can continue to make the guest experience better every time we serve you. If you ever have a less than perfect guest experience at our little kitchen please tell a team member that you would like to speak to Chef Taylor. Even if I am not available you can be assured that I respond to all questions personally and I am more focused on raising the bar for the customer experience than resting upon praise and good reviews. Thank you for the growing successes and I am genuinely hopeful that my gift of humble service, gracious hospitality and great comfort foods will continue bless you and the neighborhood of friends that we call our family here at Zachary's Southern Comfort & Catering.

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