Hamilton food icon Neal's Famous BBQ joins COA's comfort meal program

Thursday, September 10, 2020

neals BBQGood food. Homemade food.

Mike Neal doesn’t know how else to cook. And neither does his wife, Deborah.

Their restaurant, Neal’s Famous BBQ in Hamilton, OH, is Council on Aging’s (COA) latest partner delivering comfort meals to area low-income seniors. COA has partnered with many area restaurants, including minority-owned businesses such as Neal’s Famous BBQ, to provide meals to the community’s older neighbors.

Mike is thrilled to be on board. “It means a great deal to be able to serve our seniors,” he says. “This is an opportunity to give back to our community. Seniors deserve the best; they gave us their best throughout their lives, now it’s our turn.”

Mike and his three brothers and sister grew up watching his father cook for the family and community. His dad was a professional chef and used only fresh ingredients to make homemade meals. “He didn’t know how to make a small plate,” Mike says with a smile as he remembers his childhood. “He measured his love by his big meals.”

Mike followed in his father’s footsteps and Neal’s BBQ is known for its homemade food – of course, the barbeque – but also homemade meatloaf, fish and chicken, as well as homemade sides and desserts.

Starting on the street corner in 2001 with a grill, three loaves of bread and some meat, Neal’s Famous BBQ has grown to serve Hamilton through its brick and mortar store front on North Third Street as a community staple for 19 years.

Neal’s Famous BBQ, as successful as it is, has not escaped the sometimes devastating economic touch of the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, he had to lay off some of his employees, but everyone is back now. When restaurants were closed for dine-in service, Mike kept their business going by serving hundreds of boxed meals daily to first responders.

Since April, more than 27,000 comfort meals have arrived at the doors of seniors in need thanks to Council on Aging’s partnerships with LaRosa’s Pizzeria, Taste of Belgium, Frisch’s, La Soupe, C&M BBQ Grille, Chef Anthony Jordan and now Neal’s Famous BBQ.

COA’s comfort meal program is a community partnership. The meals are paid for by COA – using federal funds to expand meal service to older adults during the pandemic. Then COA service providers collect the meals from each restaurant and deliver them to low-income senior apartment buildings across COA’s service area. Service coordinators, staff and volunteers at each building distribute the meals to residents.

For more information about how Council on Aging is serving seniors during this time, please visit www.help4seniors.org. Any senior who needs help during the COVID-19 pandemic should contact Council on Aging at 513-721-1025.