The "food court war" is over at Wausau Center and the winner is open for business. Casual Joe's may have beaten out Carlie and Company but their stories didn't end when the Food Network cameras stopped rolling.
"My knees buckled, I was beyond thrilled," Casual Joe's co-owner Sarah Smith recalls of the moment when host Tyler Florence announced the winner.
In the months since the episode was taped, Smith and co-owner Tyler Sailsbery have been working hard to have everything ready for Monday's opening day. But both say there are a few things you didn't see on the Food Network.
"We came up with the concept, basically, we went on a 6,000 mile road trip in 15 days at the beginning of this year," Smith said of their search for the nation's best barbeque.
But fans of Carlie Peterson and Briana Shidell of Carlie and Company needn't worry, they haven't gone far. In fact, Carlier and Briana now sport special Casual Joe's shirts that say it all: "If you can't beat them, join them."
"They're instrumental for us in this too," Sailsbery says of Peterson and Shidell. "Passionate, they're passionate about what we're doing, what they're doing and they're actually doing some of the dressings.
So it's fun to be able to promote their products too and what they're doing because they do a great job."
But if you missed out on Carlie's signature salads, there's still hope. Peterson and Shidell cater on the side, and they're branching out through social media sites including Kickstarter and Facebook.
"We plan to eventually get a food truck going and have it for the surrounding area," Shidell said.
For now, it's "all for one" with hungry customers in line for Casual Joe's opening day. It may be hectic now but over the next year the co-owners plan to keep it casual.
"We're gonna be figuring out what sells and what doesn't, the menu will be changing," Smith said. "We'll try to get to a permanent one in the next couple of weeks but we just really want to see what the public likes and what they want instead of saying this is what we have."
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