Smile Politely

Talking barbecue deliciousness with Wood N’ Hog’s Michael McDonald

I met the owners of Wood N Hog Barbecue a few years back when they opened their first location on 4th Street. Not only was I impressed with the food, but I also found the owners to be lovely people. I got the chance to interview one of the owners and learn a little more about their flourishing local business.

When you order from Wood N’ Hog, I highly recommend getting the turkey tips and potato salad. It’s a seriously winning combo. Also, be sure to check out their Facebook page and website for special deals and daily specials.

Smile Politely: Hello! What’s your name and role at Wood N’ Hog Barbecue?

Michael McDonald: My name is Michael McDonald, owner of Wood N’ Hog Barbecue. My sister Okema Battle is my business partner and best friend.

SP: How did you get your start in the culinary industry?

McDonald: I started very early just watching the women in my family cook. I watched as my grandmother and aunties navigated through the kitchen without recipes, only passion and a willingness to serve.

Very saucy wings. Photo from Wood N' Hog Facebook page.

Photo from Wood N’ Hog Facebook page.

SP: Have you ever done any competition barbecue? 

McDonald: No, competition barbecuing has always been on my bucket list, but it seems like it requires a lot of work.

SP: Who was your biggest cooking inspiration and why?

McDonald: My biggest cooking inspiration was probably my grandmother, God rest her soul. She had the incredible ability to bring our family together with good food.

SP: What brought you C-U and led you to open a business here?

McDonald: I came to Champaign in 1999 for school. Once I met my wife 14 years ago, I ended up making Champaign my forever home. The business was inspired 5-6 years ago. I was working in Chicago with what was “supposed” to be a daily commute. I soon grew tired of the traveling back and forth to and from Chicago, and I initially was trying to work for my boss here in Champaign. He wasn’t completely interested in the idea. I did all the research and traffic counts. Proposed the idea, location, projected cost, and he was not interested. That’s when I decided that I was willing to bet on myself. I just needed to convince my wife it was a good idea, and convince my sister that it would be in her best interest to move to Champaign.

Photo by Rebecca Wells.

SP: That’s awesome. What is your favorite thing to cook?

McDonald: Probably the ribs: trying to perfect the baby back rib consistently is challenging and rewarding.

SP: What’s your favorite item or meal on the Wood N’ Hog menu?

McDonald: I really like our hotlinks. They are Chicago-inspired and taste like a breakfast sausage on steroids.

Hot links. Photo from Wood N' Hog Facebook page.

Photo from Wood N’ Hog Facebook page.

SP: What is the most popular dish on the menu?

McDonald: Turkey tips, rib tips and, surprisingly, our fish.

Fried fish sandwich and fries. Photo from Wood N' Hog Facebook page.

Photo from Wood N’ Hog Facebook page.

SP: Where do you source your meats?

McDonald: We shop locally from GFS (Gordon Foods Services) and Performace Foods.

SP: How has the pandemic affected you and your business?

McDonald: We have definitely been impacted like many other businesses. Our numbers are not a true representation of our resolve and resilience. The community has supported us with unwavering support despite unknowns. We are in a great community!

SP: How can our community help support you and other local businesses right now?

McDonald: Just continue to be intentional. Just like businesses are hurting, so too are the people who make our community great. As much as we want community support, we are conscious that people have to take care of themselves in order to take care of community businesses.

A lot of delicious barbecue options with fries in the center. Photo from Wood N' Hog Facebook page.

Photo from Wood N’ Hog Facebook page.

SP: Do you have new or adjusted hours?

McDonald: Our Urbana hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.. In Champaign, we’re open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.. We hope to mirror our hours once everything opens back up.

SP: How does it feel to have a new location in Urbana?

McDonald: Urbana has been great. Lil Porgey’s set up a great template on how to serve for the last 40 years. We are very appreciative and blessed to have the opportunity to carry on the tradition.

SP: Is your dining room currently open or do you have outdoor seating?

McDonald: Our dining room is currently closed. We will wait on direction from our local Public Health Department before reopening our dining room. We do not have outdoor seating.

SP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with C-U?

McDonald: We are now planning on growing our catering business. We believe that we have an opportunity to enter this space more aggressively.

Wood N’ Hog
500 Walnut St
T-F 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

101 W University Ave
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Top image by Rebecca Wells. 

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