On Wednesday evening in Historic Downtown Vista we found four people standing in front of an empty storefront, formerly Fifty Barrels Winery. They were Ron Bentley, Property Broker, Cam Shelhoup, property owner of 230 Main Street, and future tenants of “When Pigs Fly”, Dale and Tammy Ginos. Cam was turning over the keys to the new tenants and looking at the plans of the new space.
The new restaurant, “When Pigs Fly” is projected to be opened some time at the end of May 2017 for the Strawberry Festival. They currently have an Award Winning BBQ located inside the Chevron Station at Foothill and E. Vista Way. What a tremendous addition this will be to the downtown area. Check back for progress updates of the restaurant. Congratulations and welcome to Historic Downtown Vista.
Below are two articles written by TR Robertson that will give you insight into the history making of “When Pigs Fly”.
Unique Award Winning Barbeque in a Gas Station – “When Pigs Fly”
The two things don’t seem to go together, barbeque and a gas station. But rest assured, Vista now has a great place to get award winning barbeque in a most unique setting. Dale and Tammy Ginos and their family have been running a successful Chevron Gas Station since 1985, located at 1211 E. Vista Way. Originally, the gas station sold gas and other car products and had a repair garage. The Ginos family has worked with the Chevron Corporation since 1958.
Photos by TR and Carolyn Robertson
Over the years, Dale and Tammy upgraded the gas station, increased the size of the building, added a car wash and in 2002 added a Food Mart. Dale’s mother still comes in several days a week to work in the office of the gas station. During the time Dale was running the gas station, he continued to work on one of his hobbies, grilling. Then in 2006, things would change. Tammy wanted to attend the first-ever Stage Coach Country Music Festival in Indio. The cost to attend was a bit steep for them, but Dale discovered if you attended the festival as a competing BBQ team, it would cost less, they could park their RV inside of the festival grounds, they could compete in the BBQ contest and they could sell their product. This is when Tammy uttered what would become memorable words, “Ha! When Pigs Fly!”. They did attend, had an incredible time and while they were at it they took first place in brisket, winning their first IBCA BBQ competition. This experience would lead them to compete in more and more BBQ competitions, now competing in the “pro” division.
After their initial success, Dale and Tammy started a BBQ catering business out of their home. As this business grew, Dale had another idea, why not open a restaurant. They still had the gas station and the expense of opening another business was not something Tammy wanted to become involved with. So Dale suggested opening a BBQ restaurant in a part of the gas station that was no longer in use, a coffee shop area where the business had slowed down due to a Starbucks opening down the road.
Again, Tammy uttered those what would become magical words, “When Pigs Fly”. She did give Dale a bit of hope. They agreed, if he could save enough money, after their normal living expenses and the expense of running the gas station, she would give in.
Three years later, on Labor Day weekend of 2014, the dream came to fruition and “When Pigs Fly” opened at the southern end of the Food Mart of the Chevron station. Today, they employ 9 employees on the BBQ side and 14 people on the Food Mart and gas station side and the word is getting around about this unique barbeque restaurant.
When you enter the Food Mart, if you go right and to the back of the store, there is a clearly marked Order Here, a huge menu posted, trophies and awards on display, a soda machine that allows hundreds of combinations of drinks and flavors, a slushy machine and more. At the other end of “When Pigs Fly” is the Pick-up counter. Dale gave me a tour of his kitchen and huge cookers, which he is extremely proud of, and what he referred to as Phase One of additions, his storeroom and office spaces.
The smell of the brisket and ribs cooking was incredible.
The storeroom and office was a welcomed addition, as in order to get a business license for the restaurant and kitchen, all cooking appliances must be indoors and as he expanded to accommodate the appliances, he found he had lots of extra space he could put to good use.
One of the unusual features of the restaurant is originally it was a take-out only eatery. Some small tables and chairs were added, but they were outside in the front of the Food Mart. Dale added a window counter inside of the restaurant. When I was there several people were seated and enjoying their meal. Another addition, Phase Two, is an outdoor eating area, the patio, complete with tables, chairs, a covering and ceiling fan. It is located just outside of the Food Mart, next to the car wash, but has been designed to keep the noise down from the car wash, which isn’t really visible from the patio. This offers patrons a chance to eat on-site. Phase Three of the additions has been the purchase of an on-site catering truck. Dale said his catering business is growing and he has several weddings currently lined up. When I left, Dale’s next appointment later that day was with a couple from New York, soon to get married in Southern California and arranging a BBQ menu for their reception.
Everything at “When Pigs Fly” is made in-house. Not just the barbequed meats, but the sauces, rubs, all of the sides – coleslaw, potato salad, BBQ beans, macaroni salad, smoked corn, pasta salad, all dressings for the sides, all desserts – everything they offer. One of their dessert items is their famous smoked peach cobbler. The sauces offered are Original, Bold, and Extra Bold and they are very good. One interesting feature is none of the meats offered are sauced. Dale feels the rubs bring out the flavor and he leaves the saucing up to the individual. Some folks like a lot of sauce, some just a little. I asked him if he would like to share his rub or sauce secrets and his comment was those items are under lock and key and only he knows the location. When asked what his top sellers were at the restaurant, Dale said he felt it would be Brisket #1, Tri-tip #2 and Pork Spare Ribs #3. He said the reason he would put brisket as #1 is not only is it very good, but it is hard to cook and most people don’t take the time or know how to prepare it.
For nine years now, they have been awarded numerous Grand Champion, first place, and second place awards. Some of the awards they have won include first place for their brisket at the Wild West BBQ Showdown in 2010; Grand Champion at the OC BBQ Festival in 2011; 2nd place at the prestigious Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour; first place in pork at the Best Damn BBQ Challenge in 2013; first place in pork at Big Poppa Smokens in 2014; Best Booth Award at the 2014 Stage Coach Festival; Grand Champion for their Outlaw Chili at the Stage Coach Festival in 2015; 2nd Place in brisket at the 2015 Banning Stage Coach Days State Championship and one award Dale is very proud of, a first place in the Best Ribs in the USA competition in Laughlin, Nevada. These and more of their trophies are proudly displayed next to the ordering area in their walk-in restaurant.
Dale and Tammy are also the hosts of the Vista BBQ Fest, recently held in downtown historic Vista with over 55 teams competing in the various categories. They have hosted this event for the past seven years and each year huge crowds enjoy the tastes of the different teams as they compete for best in show for pork, tri-tip, chicken and ribs.
It was obvious that Dale’s enthusiasm and energy about cooking and preparing barbeque is the reason he has been successful in the different competitions he has entered. He truly has a love for what he is doing. He said his “challenge is to make each day a better day and to see people happy when they enjoy what he prepares.” He said people come in and sometimes they are upset with the gas prices going up and down, frustrated about something they cannot control, but when they smell what is going on in the kitchen and if they happen to wander over and select something to eat, he waits to see the smile on their face. This is what makes this all worth the effort. Dale says he does check the comments on Yelp and if he sees something someone mentions that needs to change, he studies what the people have suggested and looks at what can make his product better. One problem he still battles is the fact that people, especially those in California, seem to have a misconception about the food offered in a gas station. Readers, you need to trust me, you will have no problem with this food and it will make you come back for more and more, each time trying something new. It’s All Good and Tammy and Dale have a good thing going.