“We run at small margins anyway, but we made it through the pandemic. But because we don’t have waged employees — it’s just a family thing — we weren’t able to get a lot of grant money,” says Colleen Van Tuyl, co-owner of Ragin’ Hog BBQ.
Van Tuyl runs the Southern-style barbecue restaurant at 4361 Lowell Boulevard with her husband, Stacy, and their two sons. She describes it as a “hole in the wall,” and it’s been a mainstay in the Berkeley community for more than nine years. The place has a "personal touch,” she adds. “I try to know my customers’ names and things about their lives, [to] connect with them on a real personal level.
“Our catering took a hit from the pandemic," she continues, "and then we have the inflation on food, [which is] what’s really set us back." To combat these financial hardships, the family created a GoFundMe campaign on September 20. Although fundraising was slow at the start, the campaign has received 35 new donations in the past week, which makes up more than 40 percent of individual contributors. As of December 5, $4,215 of the $10,000 goal has been raised.
“People have been posting [the campaign] on NextDoor," Van Tuyl says of the uptick in support. "We live in a great community that really comes out and supports its small businesses.”
“They vary in one, two and four pounds of meat and [include] two sides, buns and sauce,” says Van Tuyl. “When people think of barbecue, they think of it being expensive,” she adds, but to accommodate cost-conscious customers, the restaurant also offers “a chopped-beef family pack that’s a pound of meat, two medium sides, buns and sauce for $25.”
All of the food at Ragin' Hog is a labor of love. “Five sauces, sides, our buttermilk pie; everything is homemade,” says Van Tuyl. “We are Southern barbecue, so we're more like a Memphis — we’re not a Texas or a Kansas City [style of barbecue].”
Family-pack meat choices include smoked pork, chicken and hot links. Brisket and ribs are also on the menu, both favorites among visitors. Housemade sides include comfort-food classics like mac and cheese, collard greens, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, green beans and cornbread.
back in February under a virtual-kitchen concept called Cracked Kettle Soup Company.
Van Tuyl notes that they’ve decided to merge the Cracked Kettle Soup Company concept into the standard Ragin’ Hog menu. “Along with the green chile stew and the Brunswick stew, we have a brisket bean chili, and we do different soups from time to time,” she adds, though these menu items are only available in the fall and winter.
Ragin’ Hog's hours are listed online as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday (the restaurant is closed Sunday), but don't count on those. “We close when we sell out,” Van Tuyl clarifies. "It’s a long process to barbecue.” As a result, Ragin’ Hog may close its doors as early as 5 p.m. some evenings, but "you can always call and reserve [an order]," she adds, "and then we’ll hang out here until you show up.”