For an 11-year old girl there are not too many things cooler than having a restaurant named after you. Just ask Jake Tanner’s niece, who had her middle name used in the name of the Tanner’s family restaurant; The Blu Pig: a BBQ and blues joint.
“In the beginning it was barbecue, blues music, blue light, and then my niece’s middle name being B-l-u (led to the name),” said Jake Tanner, one of the owners of The Blu Pig.
The Tanners came to Moab from outside of Gainesville, Flo., in 1991. The family was looking for a new business.
“Oddly enough we were in the restaurant business and wanted out of the business,” laughed Penny Tanner, Jake’s mother and one of The Blu Pig’s owners.
And at first they did.
After doing some research in different areas across the western U.S. the Tanners decided that Moab had the most potential for growth. So the family decided to purchase the Slickrock Campground when they moved out to Grand County.
The timing was perfect, Penny Tanner said, as Moab’s mountain bike boom was just starting.
For the next 13 years the Tanners ran Slickrock Campground. Then, at the end of 2004, Penny Tanner and her husband Rex decided that, with the kids grown and out of the house, they wanted to retire.
But that didn’t last long.
“A few years after that we bought Milt’s Stop and Eat,” Penny Tanner said.
Then over the winter of 2010-2011 the Tanners sat down and decided that they wanted to start their own restaurant. Since the closure of Fat City Smoke House in the early 2000s the family had felt that Moab needed a new BBQ restaurant.
“We found a hole in the market and tried to capture it. We knew we wanted to be in business with our children,” Penny Tanner said. “We wanted to do something from the ground floor with the kids so they could experience the sacrifice and hard work that it takes to make a business.”
“(It was) the creativity of it. We didn’t just want to buy a chain, we wanted to create it ourselves,” Jake Tanner said.
Jake Tanner, however, still had one more semester of college in southern California to finish before he could get his degree in business. But through the Internet, and many phone calls, he worked with his family to set up the business side of the restaurant.
In February of 2011 the Tanners bought a building that had been empty for nearly a decade, and within 43 days re-opened the restaurant space as The Blu Pig.
In setting up the menu the Tanners built on some of the old, Southern family favorites that they had grown up with.
“A lot of the sides we serve are things that my kids grew up eating,” Penny Tanner said. “Most everything is made right here, right down to our corn bread muffins.”
But possibly the most important thing to the Tanner family was making sure that they got their ribs right.
“You should be known for your ribs,” Penny Tanner said.
The Blu Pig buys their ribs from a Colorado supplier, with a far greater emphasis on quality than on price.
“We buy consistently the same ribs, no matter what the price is,” Jake Tanner said. “We have learned that with ribs you have to start out with real high quality ribs.”
But buying quality meat is only the beginning; after that the preparations start. That preparation is a 36-hour process that includes marinating and seven hours of cooking.
“At our peak we probably sell 100 to 120 racks (of ribs) in a weekend,” Jake Tanner said.
The Blu Pig has also recently introduced a new, lower priced, lunch menu.
Music has also been a major focus for the restaurant. The Blu Pig installed a new sound system last year and holds an open mike night every week, so that local artists can come preform using a quality sounds system.
“They give artists a lot of support and space to preform at their best,” said Scott Ibex, a local musician who has been preforming at The Blu Pig since it opened, and who helps the restaurant to bring in musical talent. “They encourage artists to really be themselves on stage. It’s a very comfortable performance space.”
And that space is being improved upon further, said Jake Tanner. On the first weekend in August The Blu Pig plans to open up its new live music space, the Blu Bar.
With a renovated bar space, and a club license that allows the restaurant to sell alcohol without food, The Blu Pig hopes to become Moab’s go-to place for live music.
“I’m really excited about the new venue. It will allow us to have even more freedom,” Ibex said. “We are looking forward to good times at the Blu Bar.”