Neal’s Famous BBQ has become a staple in Hamilton, and owner Michael Neal has stayed true to his roots while growing up and owning a business in the city.
His roots may be here, but Neal’s famous barbecue style comes from Alabama, where his father is from. Michael learned to make his famous recipe by watching him, and he brought the style and taste of the South to the North.
“I grew up doing this with my dad. We also grew up as farmers and I watched him do that for many years to help other families,” Neal said.
Michael said he learned the art of cooking Southern-style barbecue and was able to create his own flavor.
“I started this business 23 years ago with $10, three loaves of bread, a package of meat and the sauce. That’s all I had. Everyone knows it, but it’s been a journey. The business started with humble beginnings, but it has had a very successful journey,” Neal said.
He said: “I was able to not only have a successful restaurant, but also grow with the business. I believe if your business is growing and you don’t, it can be a huge disaster down the road. So I made sure that not only was I able to grow the business, but I was also learning business-wise.
Neal said an example of the growth was going from serving a few people to catering and serving every nationality in the world during an event at Voice of America.
“I saw us receive invitations to a big stage, like during the national competition in Memphis. We had an anonymous donor, I still don’t know who it was, who was going to pay for everything,” Neal said.
The year that happened, he said, was during COVID-19 and the competition was canceled, but getting that invitation “was huge for us.”
“We’ve been on some of the biggest stages to serve our barbecue. I got to serve a Grammy Award winning singer, Al B. Of course! during Rhythm on the River. They appointed us to prepare their dinner, and it only grew. A lot of companies are using us, and now our brand is available, and it’s one of the No. 1 brands right now,” Neal said.
Neal said he has received a lot of love and support from the community, which continues to take him to the next level. Building on this success, he believes in giving back and supporting local youth.
Neal’s Famous BBQ was recently voted first place for “Best Barbecue” in the Journal-News 2023 Best of Butler County contest.
“This honor means to me that I am moving to a higher level for my father, for my family and also for my customers. It’s being able to say that, every year, we can taste a little more love for the brand, and that everyone adopts the brand, because I prefer quality to quantity. I focus on quality. It’s all about how consistent we are, and being able to be in the ‘Best of Butler County’ is just another victory that we’ve had,” Neal said. “And before we got ‘Best in Butler County,’ we were named ‘Best in the Midwest’ for two years in a row and we also won ‘Best in the North,’ so now we’re winning ‘Best in the Midwest.’ “. The best in Butler County. It just shows that we’re making progress, and it’s inspired us to be able to franchise.
He said, “We franchised the restaurant, so we want everyone from Butler County and people who want to join the barbecue world to contact us. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (513) 377-5520. We are launching it now.
Neal hopes to expand with popular Neals BBQ Grab N’ Go locations throughout the Interstate 75 corridor from Hamilton and Cincinnati to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Neal said there was also a belt made for the restaurant by customers and fans of Neal’s Famous BBQ, which recognizes them as the “heavyweight champions of barbecue.” There is also a “Sauce of Champions” initiative in which he has been invited to participate.
“Our sauces are hitting the market in force. From January, you will be able to purchase the sauces online. We ship our sauces everywhere,” Neal said.
He said many people from Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and other big barbecue states are asking for these sauces.
“We’re also challenging the City of Hamilton to be able to transport the sauce to the visitor center, so we’re going to meet about that as well and we’re doing a lot of gift baskets with the different flavors of sauce,” Neal says.
Although Michael’s father, Loven Neal, nicknamed the “King of Barbecue,” passed away at Christmas last year, he continues to honor his father through the company’s accolades and successes. Loven, a Hamilton resident, also has the “King of Barbecue” on his headstone.
“In his honor, anything we win there is another token to honor him,” Neal said. “He was so proud he said, ‘Son, I knew you would take this and run with it.’ He said: “I’m so proud. » These were his words before he passed away last Christmas: “I’m so proud that the good Lord blessed me to see this,” and he said, “Now I’m ready to go. That’s what got to me,” Neal said.
Michael said he is proud of everything he has been able to accomplish so far. Yet he is also inspired to keep moving forward and help others along the way.
“Being able to say that no matter where you start is how you finish, and no matter what you do with your mind and your heart, you can achieve it. And whatever you do, do it to perfection, to perfection. My motto is: “A good product never expires”. A good product has no expiration date. My thing too is that it helps us keep creating,” Neal said. “Never be in a box. Always step outside of yourself and see yourself outside of a box, because when you are in a box you cannot grow. So, I think outside the box and I like the creative side of myself, of thinking.
Neal’s Famous BBQ has a number of sauces available at retail locations, such as Kroger and Jungle Jim’s International Market, including “Neal’s Original All-Purpose Barbecue Sauce” and “Neal’s Kickin’ Style All-Purpose Barbecue Sauce”, to name just a few. Neal’s Famous BBQ will bring back the popular house tea blend and offer its seasonings just in time for Christmas (available at 202 N. Third St. in Hamilton and online).