The little boy in the cartoon mural on the wall inside Macona BBQ may no longer have a look of glee on his face as his dad, dressed in his chef’s toque, puts down his hatchet.
Chef Cory Reuss is closing the doors to his beloved Collingswood barbecue eatery at the end of the month — tentatively on Jan. 31.
Reuss took to Facebook Monday to share the news in a video message.
“As tough as it is, we’ve been sort of holding out as long as possible but it’s just not a sustainable business at this time,” he said as snow fell around him. Reuss' "kitchen'' is Macona's giant smoker is in the backyard of his restaurant, where guests dined at picnic tables in nice weather.
“As much as myself and everyone else would love to keep cooking and putting out the food that we love, it’s just not going to be at Macona right now.”
Reuss said he was grateful for the friends made during his time at Macona and thanked his guests for their support for the last three-plus years.
“As sad as it is, we shot our shot and we’re proud,” Reuss added. “We’re proud of the product that we put out — there’s no regrets in that.”
An usual dining experience
Cory Reuss and wife, Natalie, along with son, Mason, opened Macona BBQ in 2018 just a few blocks from their Collingswood home.
With the mural dominating at the space formerly occupied by Sweet Freedom Bakery, Chef brought brisket, pulled pork, short ribs and more to the borough.
Meats, along with seitan and veggies, were barbecued in the giant backyard smoker — offering barbecue traditions the couple came to enjoy in their former home in Austin, Texas.
As the mural illustrates, the restaurant was a family affair where the Reusses offered a second home to guests as they dined on coffee brown sugar ribs, a Texas rub chicken sandwich or a vegan barbecue protein platter.
The couple, who moved from Austin to Washington, D.C., and then to Collingswood, renovated most of the restaurant space.
Cory, who is a Johnson & Wales trained chef, relocated from D.C. to serve as executive chef at The Doubletree by Hilton on Broad Street in Philadelphia prior to opening Macona BBQ.
Natalie also brought her culinary background to the restaurant with expertise in bartending and waitressing for 14 years as well as restaurant management. (When she moved to South Jersey, she was a cafe supervisor at The Turning Point in Moorestown.)
Husband and wife saw an opportunity for an “usual dining experience” with the former bakery’s kitchen. There was no cooking equipment except for two large ovens.
After “some wine and some heavy brainstorming,” the two decided to create “a funky indoor/outdoor spot,” Cory said, with a backyard smoker instead of a grill or hood.
“We always talked about it,’’ Natalie said, “and thought about it and joked about it.”
'More than just BBQ'
The Reusses developed a loyal following that is sad to see the restaurant close.
“The joy and excitement you got from cooking for people was evident in every meal we had at Macona,” wrote Bridget Briscione on the Facebook post.
“I'm so sorry to hear that you had to make this choice, but thankful for the positivity you brought to this community and hope you are so proud of what you accomplished. Best of luck on whatever is next,” she added.
Jim Marchese was also sad to hear the news.
“You were one of the consistently amazing places in the area and was at the top of the ‘Yeah, I'd definitely go back there’ list,” he wrote. “Best of luck in your next chapter.”
They felt Macona BBQ was the place to try it, she added. And more than three years later, that experience has made a big impression on borough residents.
Carole Zdobysz Pearson congratulated Reuss on three “amazing years,” adding that she “can't wait to see what you cook up next.”
“Cheers to a fantastic chef/owner and staff,” she wrote. “You made me love cornbread and BBQ - I never liked it before Macona. We'll miss you!”
David Murray of Crumb in Haddonfield and the former Denim BYOB also chimed in with a message of support.
“No one can ever take away from you all the amazing meals and happy faces that you served,” he wrote to Reuss.
“You offered something so much more than ‘just bbq’ and hopefully we’ll see you back at it down the road because there are only a select few who put the love and care into their products the way you do! Thanks for the years of creativity and deliciousness!”
Cory Reuss ended his message with some advice — take your shot.
“You don’t want to be sitting in your rocking car when your older going [expletive] I wish I would’ve done that and this and all these other things,” he said. “So just do it.”
“I’ve got a lot of great memories and who knows what’s next to come. We love you guys and thank you, thank you, thank you, and we’ll see you guys soon.”
Hira Qureshi covers food and drink for South Jersey at the Courier Post, Burlington County Times and Daily Journal. She can be reached at HQureshi@gannettnj.com or 856-287-8106. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Macona BBQ in Collingswood to close its doors at the end of January