Papa KayJoe's BBQ in Centerville
Typically, nobody ever knocks on the door at night for a good reason. Centerville’s Devin Pickard knows this better than anyone. The owner of Papa Kayjoe’s Barbecue was sound asleep on the morning of April 27, 2016 when he received a visitor.“Timmy Quillen from the sheriff’s department standing there. He said ‘You might need to get down to the restaurant. There’s a fire. ”So, Pickard quickly dressed – and made the mile-long drive to his store. What he saw shook him to the core.“For the most part, the flames were put out, so it was pretty much pitch black. They were still spraying stuff down, and I knew. It was a total loss.” He held himself together until he walked to his parent’s house – directly up the hill.“I knocked on the door. I told her it was gone. I started walking back down the driveway. I fell on my knees and looked up, and said ‘God, I don’t know why this happened. But I know you have this under control. I know it’s going to be fine.
”It took faith, hard work, and a little bit of help from his friends, but Pickard – who also serves as a local minister at Centerville’s Hope Church, took measures to get his business back running – via an empty building on the edge of town, while committing himself to rebuilding. “From the moment I hit my knees in my mama’s driveway, there was never one thought of doing something different. I knew there would be another Papa Kayjoe’s in this very spot.”
And, in June of 2017, Pickard did just that opening up a new restaurant that serves as a tribute to the citizens of Hickman County – complete with memorabilia from the local high school’s athletic teams on the wall – to pictures of he and wife Angie, and their family. In fact, the restaurant’s name is taken from the names of their two oldest children, Kaylee and Jordan. (Youngest daughter Ruby, not yet born when the store opened in 2000, is the namesake of the children’s menu!) On any given day, Pickard can be found behind the restaurant in the pit, cooking – and true to his other job, possibly doing a little bit of counseling. “Some people feel more comfortable catching me out back when I’m pulling meat or stoking a fire to talk about their marriage falling apart or how they are going to pay this bill than there is walking into a church office. To some, there’s something more laid-back and easier to talk.”
When it comes to the specialties at Papa KayJoe’s, Pickard says that he feels his top draw is his barbecue on corn cake – which consists of corn cake batter with buttermilk, eggs, and corn meal. “You can add sugar, but at its’ very basic, that’s what it is. You mix it up into a pancake batter consistency, get the grill really hot, coat the grill, make you a couple of cakes. Then, you put the barbecue on it, and you make it into a little sandwich.” A recent addition to the restaurant, which has been featured on Cook’s Country and in the pages of the Wall Street Journal is the “Smokehouse Mac and Cheese.” In addition, the restaurant has been given the distinction of having the “South’s Best Butts,” something that he says many of his flock found great humor in.
Pickard credits his friends and neighbors for keeping his spirits up during the rebuilding process. “The town of Centerville and Hickman County would show up and offer to help removing some of the debris. It’s one of those things that you hear people say, but until you lived it, you don’t really understand how much people love and care for you when tough stuff happens.”
Papa Kayjoe’s has two locations – in Centerville and in Bon Aqua. For more information, call them at 931-729-2131.