Porky’s is Osceola County’s only full-time comedy club, and soon it will also become the new home of a popular St. Cloud eatery.
Co-owner Vinny Barber made the big announcement on-stage at Porky’s last Saturday.
“You may have heard the rumors,” he told a mostly packed room Sept. 22. “Well, they’re true.”
Barber, who also owns Jimmy Bear’s BBQ, said he’s moving his popular restaurant right next door to Porky’s Comedy Club in October. Patrons will be able to catch a bite to eat at Jimmy’s before hopping over for a show at Porky’s.
Jimmy Bear’s has operated from its current Pennsylvania Avenue location since June 2014, but Barber said the new spot would give patrons more room and a better experience.
And for Barber, a St. Cloud native, the move is a perfect way to combine his two passions – barbecue and comedy.
“Everyone always tells me how passionate I am about the restaurant, but really, that was my dad’s dream,” said Barber. “Comedy was always my real passion.”
After years of growing Jimmy Bear’s reach in St. Cloud, Barber decided to take a leap of faith last year after receiving a helpful push from friend and fellow comic Eric Godfrey.
Godfrey, who now serves as the athletic director at St. Cloud High School, first met Barber playing the Central Florida comedy circuit in the early 1990s. The two lost touch over the years, but after Godfrey came to settle in St. Cloud a few years ago, it didn’t take long before Barber found out.
Godfrey was performing open mics at a local bar and Barber was itching to bring comedy to Osceola County. The two men decided to jump on the opportunity and become co-owners of a new club.
“We were both catalysts for each other,” Godfrey said. “I honestly don’t know if one of us would have taken the first step if it wasn’t for the other.”
The name Porky’s was Barber’s idea. He said it always just made sense.
“I’m in the barbecue business, so it works on that level,” he said. “Also, whether you think of Porky the Pig or the movie Porky’s, the name already has some funny associations.”
Porky’s debuted in January to a packed house on the second floor of the St. Cloud Marina. The co-owners used their long-standing comedy connections to book talent that drew an impressive crowd and kept them laughing.
But even on opening night, it was clear the location at the Marina wouldn’t work long term. Porky’s put on one more show in February there before Barber found his project a permanent home.
The space is situated in a popular strip mall near the corner of Old Canoe Creek Road and U.S. Highway 192. It doesn’t exactly look like the location of a club from the outside, but the inside is a different story.
Barber said he wanted guests to know they were in a real comedy club the moment they stepped inside. He worked with a few friends to refurbish the space with black theater curtains along the window front and comedy memorabilia along the walls. The comedy club was also outfitted with a large video screen on one wall and a sophisticated lighting system above the main stage.
The new space came equipped with a modest kitchen, but nothing like the one Barber was accustomed to at Jimmy Bear’s. Porky’s has offered a limited food menu since it opened its new doors March 16, but it wasn’t long before the local business owner noticed how much roomier things were beside the comedy club.
“To me, it always made sense,” he said. “Offer them both in one spot. Dinner and a show. Or not. Whatever you’re in the mood for.”
That’s how Barber came to rent an additional space connected to Porky’s, which he quickly began renovating into a full commercial kitchen. In addition to the standard equipment used at Jimmy Bear’s, the 13th Street location will offer new upgrades, a charcoal grill for steaks and a deli display case that lets customers take fresh meat home to cook themselves.
“We’re going to offer a selection of meats at grocery store prices when we have them available,” Barber explained. “So, if you’re already here and realize you want to make ribs on Saturday, you don’t have to make another trip to the grocery store.”
Barber acknowledged he has received slight push back from loyal Jimmy Bear customers accustomed to its quaint home location in the heart of downtown St. Cloud.
But at just two-in-a-half miles away, Barber said he doesn’t think it will be long before customers adapt to the change in scenery.
“People have said, ‘Oh but Jimmy Bear’s is in such a cute spot, but what they don’t realize is it can’t seat even 30 people,” Barber said. “Between the new spot and Porky’s next door, it can seat over 200.”
Although Porky’s is only open every-other weekend, the new Jimmy Bear’s locale will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week, along with the catering and take-out options it already offers.
Barber said he aims to have the new kitchen up and running by next month, hopefully in time for the show at Porky’s Oct. 18.
Last Saturday, Barber described a few of the menu options to be featured at the new operation. “Pigs in Our Blanket” will feature a traditional homemade cornbread recipe rolled out to create a fluffy tortilla that is stacked with fresh, slow-cooked brisket, rolled over and topped with a serving of southern-style gravy.
“It’s OK to moan,” Barber said, looking natural on a stage he helped build talking about two businesses he helped create. “We’re talking about food porn here, so it’s OK.”