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Brooke and Jim Higgins moved from Boston to Philly to open Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse in Northeast Philly. Photo: Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse.
Brooke and Jim Higgins moved from Boston to Philly to open Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse in Northeast Philly. Photo: Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse.

How Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse in Northeast Philly kept delivering savory North Carolina BBQ amid COVID-19

The eatery just reopened for indoor dining on March 1.

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Brooke and Jim Higgins loved having barbecues for easy delicious dinners.

They dreamed of opening an eatery where people could come in and feel like they stepped into a backyard cookout.

“My husband went to school in North Carolina, and he has always loved barbecue,” said Brooke Higgins, owner of Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse.

The couple met and fell in love while working in a restaurant together in Colorado. 

“We have been married for 21 years and we’ve never not worked together,” she said.

They were living in Boston when Philly native, Brooke, told her husband the only way they would open a restaurant is if they moved back to Philly to grow roots.

“We need to be close to family because owning a restaurant is seven days a week,” she said.

Another key to a successful BBQ joint was to make sure it was economically efficient for everyone.

“We have people come in wearing suits, we also have people come in wearing sweats, I really wanted to make sure that everyone can afford it,” said Higgins.

Amid their success, the duo admitted they were not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic that turned the world upside down.

“We closed for two weeks and decided to keep on doing take-outs,” said Higgins.

For the restaurant to survive the pandemic, she closed indoor dining, even when Mayor Kenney allowed the reopening of restaurants to 50% on Feb. 12.

“We actually didn’t open our dining room until March 1,” she said. We’ve been doing only take-outs since last March.”

Higgins wanted to wait until the COVID-19 numbers dropped significantly until she opened her eatery.

“It’s a family business so we wanted to be completely safe for our family and our staff members,” she said.

One part of her business that has been hit hard was its catering company.

“Business has slowed down in that department because no one is having any get-togethers,” she said.

Although catering is understandably slow, Sweet Lucy’s take-out orders have been in high demand ever since the pandemic started.

“We took the flavors and styles of barbecue from down south, but we added a little bit of Philly to our recipes,” she said.

The variety of flavors and dishes that Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse has been serving up is the main reason why hungry locals keep coming back for more.

“We sell at least 200 pounds of mac and cheese a day,” she said.

The velvety deliciousness is baked to perfection until a golden-brown crust is formed.

“We also have non-traditional sides,” she said.

Pulled pork is their most popular meal on the menu.

“We do a combination of North Carolina pork and add a tangy red sauce,” said Higgins.

Their moist and buttery cornbread is usually paired with their well-known baked beans infused with bits of pork that’s made in-house.

“You also have to try our desserts, we make all of them from scratch,” she said.

Her sister works hard delivering baked goods so customers can experience the home-style taste in every bite.

If you are in the neighborhood and are craving for some southern-style barbecue, why not pay Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse a visit on 7500 State Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19136.

Get your eating bib ready and discover a bit of North Carolina!

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