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Catholic Life COVID-19 Features

Fat Bob’s Smokehouse teams up with St. Vincent de Paul Society to provide hot meals


Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, 100 people enjoyed some yummy barbecue from Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, served at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room on a chilly Jan. 12.

The big-hearted donor wanted to sponsor a lunch for the diners of St. Vincent de Paul, while at the same time helping the restaurant industry, which has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions.

“So, they decided to put a win-win together and have Fat Bob’s cater a lunch here and they paid for it,” said Society Executive Director & CEO Mark S. Zirnheld. “So, today, Fat Bob’s brought down one of their specialties. We’re going to plate it up and serve it to our guests as their lunch today, as a treat for them.”

On the menu was pulled chicken, pulled pork, award-winning macaroni and cheese, baked beans, seasonal vegetables and Southern cornbread.

Over 100 meals have been donated. Since Covid restrictions began last March, the number of people who seek meals from St. Vincent de Paul has dropped from 185 to 125.

“We’ve been open the entire pandemic period. We never shut down,” said Zirnheld. “This is a huge shot in the arm for us, because a lot of our resources and our volunteers dried up because of the Covid period. So, we’ve had to stretch what we got. So, this is not only a treat for our guests to have for lunch, but it is a huge help to us in order to provide our services.”

When Covid first hit, Fat Bob’s reached out to the medical community by offering a discounted box lunch to health care workers. Private donations have allowed meals to go to law enforcement and fire halls.

“We love to see people’s faces when they see what meals their coming for,” said M.J. McEwen, caterer and events manager for Fat Bob’s Smokehouse.

Donation-catering is a new venture for the downtown-based barbeque joint, but McEwen hopes it starts a trend.  

“(The partnership) is brand new for us, but going forward as a community that Fat Bob’s Smokehouse is, hopefully we get to see more of you guys, especially with the other donors in the community. Hopefully, this challenges someone else to come forward and help just a little bit more,” she said.

“It’s a great partnership. We try to do everything locally, because if we don’t have local support, we can’t do what we do. To have this effort, not only does it help us, it helps a local restaurant that has really been impacted by Covid. It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Zirnheld. “We couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

In a statement, Patrick Ryan, owner of Fat Bob’s, spoke about the support he has seen from the local community and the support he hopes to continue giving back.

“Our community has rallied to support local in times of crisis and providing these meals by private donation has proven again that community teamwork is what makes Buffalo a unique town where we are proud to provide delicious BBQ,” Ryan said. “We are committed to helping others just as the Western New York Community has rallied to support us through the past year and beyond. We are truly grateful for the donor’s generosity and hope their effort starts a movement.”

The society’s dining room serves meals from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. In 2019, 63,455 meals were provided to those in need.

And although barbecue cannot cure the Coronavirus, it does help fight the anxiety and uneasiness that it has brought over the past year.

 “Barbecue is a comfort food,” said Zirnheld. “I think we could all use a little comfort nowadays.”

Photo – Mark Zirnheld, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and M.J. McEwen, events manager for Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, display some of the award-winning food that will be served to St. Vincent de Paul’s clients. The social service organization and barbecue restaurant were able to work together to feed over 100 people thanks to a generous donor. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi.