By Barry Dalton
Since the Vandalia Leader reported about the Up in Smoke Food Truck last September, and the owner’s plans to open a restaurant in Vandalia, we were sad to hear that tragedy struck Ronnie Woods’ family this past January.
Woods’ mother, Rene Horton, died of complications from the coronavirus on Jan. 8. She was not only a driving force behind Woods’ BBQ business, but she was his closest friend.
“She was a big part of my life and my business,” Woods said. “She was my best friend, and the loss of her has affected me in many ways.”
Not only did his mother help inspire many of the recipes for his appetizers and side dishes, she would come to his house in Mexico and volunteer countless hours helping him prepare them.
Woods told the Leader during an interview with him and his mother in Mexico on Aug. 31, as they sat around his dining room table next to the kitchen preparing big bowls of broccoli salad, “This is kind of a mother-son social time. We get to talk, and talk over our weekly stuff and our family stuff.”
Horton had an instinctive understanding of the food business and a good memory. She could list off which side dishes and entrees were preferred in each town they visited: “Some towns like macaroni salad, some towns like broccoli slaw, some towns really like nachos. Some towns like brisket, some towns like pulled pork. Some towns like barbecued pork steak.”
Woods started the food truck, which is actually a trailer that his mother dubbed “the food shack,” on Aug. 14, 2019. The original plan was to open a small restaurant on Hwy. 54 in Vandalia at the end of March. But, for good reason, those plans took a back seat to family.
“I am trying to pick up the pieces of my life and my family right now along with continuing my food truck business,” he said.
Construction plans have also been delayed in part by the same general delays that have occurred for everyone else doing construction projects during the pandemic.
“The cost of lumber has been another setback along with trying to schedule the construction of the restaurant,” Woods said. “We are working on getting the old building demolished, as well.”
With progress on the restaurant temporarily slowed, Woods says that he is expanding his presence in Vandalia in the coming months.
“We are going to start our Wednesday evening supper for Vandalia April 7th, which will be every Wednesday night from 4:30 to 7,” he said.
Until then, you can find the food shack in the lot next to the Dairy Queen on Hwy. 54 at lunchtime on Fridays and often on Friday evenings as well.
After a hiatus, Ronnie Woods brought his food truck, Up in Smoke, to Vandalia on Friday, Feb. 5.