It’s prime time for barbecue
Primal Eats in Gillett is serving up some tasty cuts
By Josh Koerner
If you’ve been to a supper club in Wisconsin, you’ve probably sampled a Brandy old fashioned as local dining locations are known for this cocktail. Then there’s the sudden surge of venison on local menus.
Much of this is thanks to a small chunk of paradise up in Gillett called Primal Eats. The specialty retailer and barbecue restaurant offers products like venison sausages, hot dogs, brats, ground venison burger, snack sticks and chili. It’s plain to see why local restaurants are drawn in by their wares.
Primal Eats began its ascent to greatness in 2007 as a small hunting and breeding operation named Apple Creek Whitetails. Their aim then was merely to provide a posh all-inclusive hunting experience complete with lodging and professionally- prepared meals.
In 2018, it began leaning into the culinary side of their business, first experimenting with an array of sausages. Near the end of 2020, owner, Scott Follet decided to launch a small highway-side food truck to test public opinion on their snack sticks.
Follet’s food truck received so much positive feedback that they opened a storefront complete with three flavors of snack sticks, sausages and bacon all made with venison under the name Primal Eats.
In December 2020, shortly after the launch of their store, local grocers and gas stations requested Primal Eats products. Keen to see how far they could take things, Primal Eats underwent state inspection in order to become a licensed reseller. It’s currently looking into federal inspection processes so that they can satisfy the demand from our neighboring, Michigan as well.
All of this came to a head in February 2021 when Primal Eats began work on a full-service restaurant tacked onto their storefront. Follet and General Manager Isaac Follet managed to accomplish this feat in only two months, officially opening the Primal Eats Brisket and Beer Garden in April 2021.
With the addition of the kitchen, Primal Eats expanded its store to offer prepared meals, such as chili and a killer frozen pizza with venison sausage. The concept behind the restaurant was to open a unique, community-oriented, family-friendly dining experience in an open-air venue, complete with games and live music.
While the chill of winter may halt some of these events, hangar doors and space heaters ensure their barbecue and inviting atmosphere remains intact year-round.
To get a good feel for their menu, I tasted the three-meat plate with a tin of the six cheese macaroni. As I made my way through the plate, each portion I tasted proved more impressive than the last. In the end, my favorites were the brisket, cowboy potatoes and the mac and cheese.
It’s plain to see why Primal Eats notes their brisket as its claim to fame. The lean trim leaves enough fat for a nice crust and robust flavor, while ensuring you get your money’s worth of the tender, juicy meat. The Cowboy Potatoes are a bit more nuanced. Combining vinegar, onion, the mustard-based barbecue sauce, and sesame seeds, the dish resembles a new take on classic German-style potato salad.
I was hesitant about the mac and cheese. Restaurant mac and cheese, in my opinion, seems to frequently miss the mark. So much so that I tend to avoid ordering it. Primal eats, however, shows up hard with that good Wisconsin cheese. The richest I have sampled to date, their iteration includes a bechamel sauce, four-year cheddar, parmesan, asiago, romano and a mozzarella-provolone hybrid. All these cheesy noodles come together under a toasty blanket of buttery breadcrumbs to make a decadent masterpiece. My favorite part of this creamy concoction is the salty mouth pull formed by the interaction between the cheddar and the sharper Italian-style cheeses.
Whether you are a brisket fan, a venison enthusiast, or just taking a passing trip through Gillett, Primal Eats is definitely worth a stop. In the meantime, they promise to keep changing the culinary face of Wisconsin. I, for one, can’t wait to see local venison swell in popularity.
Josh Koerner grew up in De Pere and has a passion for local food. To know more about his passion for food you can check out his Facebook Page, Josh Eats Green Bay