“I had been tossing around the idea of starting our own restaurant business for some time, but my husband wondered if we could really pull it off. Neither one of us had ever worked in a restaurant. Then in 2008, when things were starting to get shaky with the economy and people were starting to lose jobs, we gave it more serious thought, because who knew if our jobs would always be there. I had a good job with good benefits, but something kept calling me to do it,” says Alisha Hayes, owner.
After much research and talking to other restaurant owners, Hayes put together a plan and secured a loan ...just in the nick of time before the banks cut back on lending.
“My mother was my inspiration. I remember how much she liked to cook and always encouraged us to have fun. I used her ideals as the foundation for my restaurant - a fun place with southern hospitality and great food,” Hayes explains. “I named the business after her because it reminds me every day of my mom, her love and her positive attitude.”
An Idea becomes a reality
The Hayes looked at downtown Waukesha locations, but realized that many of the buildings would not properly support the equipment they needed. They heard that Sunset Avenue was a hot spot for food, so they focused on that side of town.
“The unit we are in was actually vacant for some time, and when I approached the owner with my plans, he took my idea in good faith, agreed to a lease and actually helped us with upgrades and changes,” says Hayes. “Everyone was on board with my plan - the mayor, the banks, the inspectors -everyone.”
As the grand opening neared, “I pressured my husband Tydus to create some barbecue sauces. We needed to get a menu together fast,” Hayes describes of last minute preparations. “While they were very good sauces, we have since gone with five varieties that I have created that seemed to be more receptive to our customers.”
“We originally offered sliders and turkey legs, but we have since limited the meat to the smoked ribs and beef brisket. When we opened we had three side dish options, but in a matter of months, with the help of customer suggestions (those familiar with great deep fried Southern food) we boasted nine side dishes. The first year is pretty much about trial and error.”
The ribs and beef brisket are not smoked with the barbecue sauce on it because, “It really is all about the meat and its tender, rich flavor. People in Wisconsin like their barbecue sauce though, so we provide our sauces on the side so people can add to their meat.”
Hayes fills two large smokers every day with meat and when it runs out, it runs out.
Hayes explains, “I would rather run out than serve day-old meat reheated. I insist on fresh meat every day. To guarantee they can get their food, customers call their orders in early in the day for later pick up.”'
'Our customers are the best'
“We have been in business now for a little over seven years, and without a doubt the best part of running this restaurant is our customers. My mother taught me to make people feel special, have great manners and promote laughter. I must know at least 100 or more people by name and enjoy joking around with all of them,” Hayes remarks.
The small restaurant has been visited by big-time celebrities, including comedian Kathy Griffin, after a recommendation from Hayes' aunt, Oprah Winfrey.
Asked about future aspirations, Hayes replies, “I hope to be a vendor at the Buck’s Arena one day.” She will likely succeed.
(Great with crab cakes or fried fish)
3 Tablespoons of mayo
1 teaspoon of lemon juice or 1/4 of a lemon slice squeezed.
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of sea saly
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in bowl and serve.
Recipe provided by Alisha at Pat’s Rib Place