By Amy Eddings
Richard Schnipke has the United States Army to thank for introducing him to barbecue, and his wife, Paulette, for getting him in the restaurant business.
Ottawa, too, owes a debt of gratitude to the Army and to Paulette, because they were the impetus for the Red Pig Inn Pork House and Pub, an Ottawa institution and a restaurant that readers of The Lima News consistently rank as one of “The Best” for barbecue in the area.
“He was a cook in the Army, stationed in North Carolina during the Vietnam War,” explained Paulette. “There were all these barbecue places everywhere.”
Richard got to visiting the different barbecue joints around the base, sampling their pulled pork and ribs.
“We would visit some of them, see how they roasted their hogs,” he said.
You can just imagine Richard, fresh out of the Army, young, recently married, looking for his calling, his path to somewhere. Here he is, back in Ohio, with an interest in barbecue and cooking skills from his time slinging hash in the Army.
“Once it gets in your blood, it stays there,” said Richard of his itch to cook for others. “I kinda like the idea of working with people and being creative.”
All that was needed for the leap of faith that became the Red Pig Inn was inspiration and opportunity.
The inspiration came from his wife.
“It was my idea for him to go out on his own,” Paulette said. “My dad was self-employed. He was working a lotta hours for someone else. I said, ‘Why not start out on your own?’”
The opportunity came when the operators of an Ottawa eatery wanted out. The Schnipkes wanted in.
That was 41 years ago this April.
During that time, Richard has been creative, all right, with a full menu that includes pig skin appetizers and pulled pork nachos, a southwest taco salad with grilled chicken or pork, Hiney Swiney egg rolls made with shredded pork, their own Red Pig lasagna and ribs, of course, roasted with a dry rub of paprika, seasoning salt, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper and slathered with their own tomato-based barbecue sauce.
“A lot of it is mustard-based,” he said of the North Carolina-style of barbecue that he knew from his Army days. “We adapted (the sauce) so people could eat it here.”
With success has come growth. The Schnipkes started the Red Pig Inn with 100 seats but now have 450, with the addition of several banquet rooms. They’ve also expanded the kitchen and added a catering kitchen and a seemingly vast prep area with multiple stainless steel tables.
Soon, they’ll need an extra room just for their trophies and awards. They are packed in display cases and crowded around the front door. Some date back to when the Red Pig Inn routinely participated in the rib cookoff that used to be held at the Allen County Fairgrounds.
“Once, at a cookoff, we sold three tons of ribs in one day,” Richard said.
They said they’re grateful for the warm embrace they’ve received from their customers.
“We want to let people know how much we appreciate their support,” Paulette said, “especially those who come here from the Lima area. We know they’re driving past a lot of places on their way to eat with us.”
RED PIG INN PORK HOUSE AND PUB
Address: 1470 N. Perry St., Ottawa, OH 45875
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
RED PIG INN SPARERIB DRY RUB
Richard Schnipke won’t give away the exact ingredients and instructions for making his sparerib dry rub, for obvious reasons. It’s his recipe, the secret behind his restaurant’s success. But he also thinks everyone should come up with their own recipe, express their own creativity.
“A rub should be what you like,” he said. “Experiment with things, get the right balance. It doesn’t have to be smoked paprika, for example.”
That said, his dry rub starts with smoked paprika. There’s also seasoning salt, onion powder, garlic powder, garlic salt, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, lemon pepper and brown sugar. The proportions are estimates. There will be enough here for two to three full racks of ribs.
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning or other seasoning salt
1 cup brown sugar
Add the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. When ready to use, rub generously onto ribs.