When Patricia “Mrs. Big Jim” Hope passed away in September 2007, the future of the Big Jim’s barbeque empire she’d built with her late husband was in question. The Big Jim’s Bar-B-Que catering machine, headquartered on 10th Street, turned off the engines immediately, but the little Big Jim’s restaurant on Angus Road continued to chug along for a bit while the whole enterprise was put up for sale by Hope’s estate. Even with the cessation of business and an uncertain future for Big Jim’s, however, many local fans clung to their hopes that it would survive—even giving it enough votes to make it runner-up for Best BBQ in C-VILLE’s annual Best Of readers’ poll this year.
Well, the future is finally clear for Big Jim’s. Brent Lunnen purchased the whole deal (catering and restaurant) earlier this year and will continue to bring the Big J grub to a tailgate near you through the catering arm; however, he sold the Angus Road restaurant to Juanita “Winky” Hunt, who has renamed the place, naturally, Winkys. Frequent customers of the old Big Jim’s restaurant will recall that Hunt was a server, manager and great friend to Mrs. Hope for 12 years before Hunt came down with asthma and was ordered by her doctor to flee the restaurant’s smoking policy (the nicotine kind, not the meat-cooking kind). Even after being forced to find another job, however, Hunt tells us that she remained close with Mrs. Hope and actually had been discussing purchasing the restaurant from her before Hope’s sudden death from a heart attack. “I didn’t think it was going to work out after that,” Hunt says. The estate bundled together the restaurant and the catering business for sale, and Hunt was not in a position to take over the catering. “I gave up on it,” she says.
Because ultimate purchaser Lunnen was only interested in the catering, however, Hunt got her wish after all. She reopened the Angus Road spot on October 15 with her own eponymous moniker (Lunnen kept the Big Jim’s brand name with the catering shop) and a new nonsmoking policy. Hunt has made a few minor menu changes, but tells us Winkys will serve the original Big Jim’s pork barbeque once Lunnen has Big Jim’s catering back up and running to full capacity.
We’re all winners!
Psst. The secret password is “Pennywise pound foolish.” No, it’s not to get you into some goofy, after-hours rave. It’s to get you some love at one of our swankiest establishments: Keswick Hall. The place best known for fox hunts and exclusive golf memberships wants you—yes you, Joe the Plumber of Charlottesville—to discover Keswick’s playful, less private side. Locals can register to become members of Keswick’s Winners’ Circle, which gets them e-mailed information on monthly events and promotions targeted just to those of us lucky enough to live in the shadow of what Condé Nast Traveler has deemed one of the world’s best places to stay. From crazy generous drink specials to guaranteed spots in Executive Chef Craig Hartman’s often sold-out cooking school events, the Winners’ Circle has some sweet benefits. And all you have to do is recite whatever ye old English proverb was chosen for that month (an homage to Keswick’s eccentric upper crust founder, Sir Bernard “Mr. Laura” Ashley, perhaps).
Keswick’s General Manager Tony McHale says, “We were looking for a vehicle for communicating directly with the local community. For years, people thought we were private or just very expensive. That’s been perpetuated through the ages in Charlottesville.”
Hey yokels, here’s a little secret: Keswick Hall is a public hotel—you can march right in there, sit at the bar and order a drink. And if you know the password for November, you can even get yourself a 10 cent martini. (“Pennywise pound foolish” was the October password, by the way—how easy do you want us to make this for you?) To register for the Winners’ Circle, visit keswick.com/winnerscircle.