Meet the Witten Family of QDaddy’s Pitmaster BBQ
It’s about time the Ham Capital of the World and home to the world’s largest pork processor (Smithfield Foods) had a restaurant that pays homage to BBQ. Hamtown’s new QDaddy’s Pitmaster BBQ was over 35 years in the making, but well worth the wait!
1976: The “Daddy” in QDaddy’s, Norman Witten, begins his first job in the restaurant business at age 18. He’s bitten by the food and hospitality bug!
1978: Norman meets and marries Lynn in 1978 in Hampton, Virginia. They move to Suffolk, Virginia in 1989, and raise a family, three girls and four boys.
1983: After reading an article in the Virginian Pilot that listed note-worthy BBQ establishments, Norman finds his passion as he and a buddy, embark on a tour of the establishments to taste test sauces and styles.
2007: Norm and Lynn attend a BBQ Cooking school which culminated with a competition cook-off and were fascinated by what they learned. There they met two notable pitmasters from the BBQ world who would mentor and advise their hobby. Quito McKenna invited Norm and Lynn to tag along to a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) competition in Illinois where they met fellow Virginian and Pitmaster Tommy Houston (Checkered Pig) of Martinsville, Virginia. The Witten’s purchased their first ever pit from Houston on New Year’s Day in 2008 and got cookin’.
2008: QDaddy’s begins a small catering operation staffed by the entire family. Initially they serve just friends and families but eventually word gets out and they start receiving more business. During this time the Witten family develop the recipes for sides and desserts served in their restaurant today. They also hone their skills on pit smoking pork, brisket and ribs. The catering business is still going strong…visit their website for details!
August 2011: QDaddy’s BBQ enters its first solo KCBS competition at the Hampton Bay Days Festival in Hampton, Virginia in 2011 and wins first place in Ribs!
April 2009: Norman and Lynn’s third son, Jesse joins the Marines at the age of 21 and serves for four years. Before joining up, Jesse finds that he loves firing up the smoker with Dad and dreams of turning this interest into something more.
May 2012: Jesse meets and marries wife Amy, they move to Smithfield. Son Mason arrives in November of 2016.
March 2015: Jesse returns home from the Marines and announces he would like to bring to life the family’s dream of opening a BBQ restaurant.
May 2016: After two years of searching for the perfect location (and a few wrong turns), the family purchases the former Shop and Go (originally a Texaco Station) on South Church Street in Smithfield. Jesse and brothers Caleb, Trey and Robert (owner of Tidewater Pro Build, Suffolk,Va) renovate and construct the restaurant. Sister Joy designs the interior, Pitmaster (and Daddy) Norman serves in an advisory role and is a wealth of information and expertise, and all the family members pitch in with advice and sweat equity!
January, Friday 13, 2017: QDaddy’s Pitmaster BBQ opens! Jesse serves as (second generation) Pitmaster and General Manager, sister Gracie as day-to-day Manager, sister Joy directs catering, but mom, Lynn is the official owner and head-boss lady. Even sister, Michaela who lives in Boston flew down to help out the first two weeks the restaurant was open.
What will you experience at QDaddy’s?
The interior of this carefully refurbished restaurant is comfortable and inviting, much like a modern farmhouse with reclaimed wood and subway tiled walls. Bold photographs of local sites are displayed throughout, showcasing the family’s hometown pride.
But even more than the warm décor, customers will experience the family’s warm hospitality!
As Jesse describes it,“We love our community in Smithfield and find it incredibly gratifying to serve hungry people great food and show hospitality to friends, families and individuals.”
“We’re a ‘quick-service concept restaurant.’ That means we focus on fast and friendly dining. Our customers approach the counter, place their order and enjoy a front-row seat as we prepare their food. Customers then move down the line as sides and desserts are added, pay at the register and then seat themselves.”
“We believe that what sets us apart is that we train our QDaddy Pitcrew on the finer points of Southern Hospitality. Our dedicated staff is a diverse group of hard-working individuals who have demonstrated an enthusiasm for team-work and customer service.”
“We specialize in slow-smoked pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs and hand-breaded fried chicken tenders. All our sides and desserts are scratch-made, in-house daily from fresh ingredients in our very busy kitchen.”
QDaddy’s superstar pork dishes are cooked on two 500-pound Southern Pride Pits, affectionately named “Bonnie and Clyde.” Pitmaster Jesses says that after adding the second pit just days after opening, another pit will be added soon to keep up with demand! (In the meantime, come early for lunch! The beef brisket is typically the first thing they sell out of in a rush.)
“All our side dishes are prepared fresh from scratch every day and include a variety of choices including mango coleslaw, bacon broccoli salad, creamy mac & cheese, and our signature hand-cut French fries. We also serve a variety of house-made desserts such as jumbo molasses cookies, banana snap pudding, and apple crisp.”
“Another unique menu item our customers enjoy are our signature Fizzy Limonades: a hand-squeezed lemon/lime beverage reminiscent of old-fashioned soda fountain drinks. We make those to order right at the counter while you watch. And of course, we brew our own sweet tea all day long.”
Some customers are surprised to find that QDaddy’s doesn’t serve the standard vinegar based North Carolina style BBQ. Jesse explains, “Our pulled pork is sauced with our award-winning, secret-recipe, Dad’s “Original #49” sauce and is closer to a Memphis style BBQ with hints from other regional influences based on our time on the competition circuit. Our beef brisket is Texas style with the addition of our own sweet, house-made rub. Our ribs are hand-trimmed, pit-smoked and grill finished with the choice of sweet or spicy sauce. In addition to our smoked meats, we offer hand-breaded fried chicken tenders which are made to order and served with our fan-favorite house-made Awesome Sauce.”
Jesse is thrilled at how the community has embraced QDaddy’s. “We already have a loyal fan base of customers and many regulars we see on a daily or weekly basis. Every week we have customers from Virginia Beach, Gloucester, Yorktown, Norfolk and beyond, because they’ve heard about us from a friend. We have one customer named Kyle who has been with us from the very beginning. He’s a shy fellow and doesn’t say much when he comes in, but the Pitcrew knows him well and announces “Kyles here!” when they see his car in the parking lot. Kyle probably doesn’t even know how famous he is behind the counter, but his loyalty and staggering capacity for big quantities of QDaddy’s food has made him a beloved guest.”
So Jesse and the Witten family recognized Smithfield’s need for a BBQ joint and saw an opportunity too good to pass up! And we’re sure glad they did.
Delicious food. Fast and friendly service. Southern Hospitality. Jesse says it all, “No offense to mama’s everywhere, but our pork, sides and desserts will make you wish your momma cooked this good. We’re easy to find on the main drag heading into Downtown Smithfield. And by the way, wear comfy pants. You’ll leave full!”