Money Muscle, the barbecue/food truck operation from the owners of All Set Restaurant and Bar, will create an outdoor seating area in the parking lot next door, according to Jennifer Meltzer, co-owner and managing partner.
The concept has its roots from a time when Meltzer and Ed Reavis, co-owner, chef, pit master and Meltzer’s husband, started thinking about adding a ghost kitchen to boost sales and look at other ideas outside the seafood that All Set emphasizes.
The two were also looking for foods that would travel better for takeout and delivery than popular All Set fare such as fish and chips and some of the other menu items.
Reavis is from southern Virginia, near the North Carolina border, and always wanted to work with barbecue, Meltzer said.
Money Muscle then started with a pellet smoker (“It was really kind of a small-scale operation,” Meltzer added.)
“When the pandemic hit and we didn’t know what was going to happen with All Set, we thought there was maybe an opportunity to expand the barbecue concept,” she continued.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen with brick and mortar restaurants, so we thought the food truck would be a good opportunity,” Meltzer said. “Maybe that would be Ed and my jobs if we had to close the restaurant.”
A food truck also was a way to get out into neighborhoods and take their offerings to people where they were, rather than wait for them to come to the restaurant. That idea has proven to be popular, Meltzer said, given the amount of bookings they’ve had.
They’ve been able to park the now-established food truck on a portion of the lot owned by the Lee Development Group, courtesy of Bruce Lee, the company’s president.
“I approached him to activate this ‘patio’ space over the summer,” Meltzer said. “Even with people vaccinated, I still think people are going to be more comfortable being outside.”
Another advantage of expanding into the lot is it will activate a space that has been essentially empty, dead space for months, improving public safety, she added.
The expansion plan, originally mentioned in a review of Money Muscle by Tim Carman of The Washington Post, is beginning June 1. Money Muscle will be operating under a 20’ by 40’ tent, with lights, games such as corn hole, oversized Connect 4, and Jenga, and picnic tables for seating up to 24 people.
Tentatively, the family-friendly space (next to All Set’s 8630 Fenton St. location), which will be blocked off with some decorative barriers, will be open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., depending on staffing.
The original Money Muscle truck will be parked there as well, as they plan to rent another truck to take around town and continue to visit neighborhoods.
For the time being, they plan to operate in that space for six months, perhaps adding new menu items like whole suckling pigs Reavis smoked to mark the start of National Barbecue Month on May 1.
In the meantime, what had started with a small rented smoker has grown into an operation that owns a large custom-built smoker as well as a smaller one in order to meet the demand.
And Meltzer credits the Money Muscle concept for helping save All Set during the pandemic.
Top photo, pit master Ed Reavis (back to camera) and crew unload smoked meats from Money Muscle’s custom-built smoker. Below, the lot that will be transformed as of June 1. Photos by Mike Diegel