Keith Combs and his son, Chris, known for their portable food truck are no longer on the road.
They purchased a building on Central Avenue, and have converted the property into a barbecue restaurant called Combs Bar-B-Q Central. After months of remodeling, it’s set to open in early July, they said.
The building was owned by Steve O’Neil, owner of Stefano’s Italian Cafe, which is located just down the street. O’Neil encouraged the Combs family to open a barbecue restaurant, and Keith Combs said he hopes other restaurants open in the area.
“We could play off each other,” said Keith Combs, 60. He think a barbecue restaurant and an Italian restaurant will “work well together.”
The interior of the 1,500-square-foot building resembles a restaurant you may see in Nashville. Musical memorabilia hangs on the walls and about every inch of the place is covered with items that Keith Combs has collected over the years. A phone booth sits in the corner and the sign reads, “Cell phone booth.” There are 35 seats and Chris Combs said he hopes to add outside dining.
“The atmosphere is everything,” Keith Combs said. “People will come in here just to see the stuff.”
There are plenty of signs in the place and there’s a good reason for that: the family owns and operates Combs Creative Signs in downtown Middletown.
Over the years, the building has been numerous restaurants from Tops and Bowes to a wallpaper, then a TV and radio repair business.
The Combs family has been synonymous with barbecue. Keith Combs and his late father, Hal, operated Five Star BBQ on Charles Street for years, then Keith and Chris set up their food trailer throughout the city.
Keith Combs said he always wanted to open another barbecue restaurant. He has collected memorabilia over the years.
“Now is the time,” he said. “This is the right opportunity. Everybody loves barbecue.”
Numerous restaurants have opened or are planning to open in and around downtown, including Blue Goose Deuce, Buck’s 24 Hour Diner, Murphy’s Landing and The Meadows. Keith Combs said that shows investors believe in the city.
“We are going to make it come back,” he said.
Chris Combs, 30, a 2002 Middletown High School graduate, said the restaurant will be successful because of the quality of the food and the reasonable prices. He said the meat will be smoked at least nine hours. They are waiting for their beer and wine license.
“It’s all about taste,” Chris Combs said. “Once people come here once, we’ll have them.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.