Not-So-Hidden Gem

Boxcar40 might be tucked away in a onetime firehouse in Pittsville, but that’s not stopping customers from showing up in droves

Written by Victor Fernandes  /  Photography by Grant L. Gursky

Boxcar40 opened less than a year ago, slightly off the more traditional paths to Eastern Shore culinary hotspots of Maryland and Delaware. Yet the 90-year-old Pittsville firehouse-turned-popular-restaurant-and-bar is far from a hidden gem. Diners have found its rustic, old-school feel charming, and longtime chef Paul Suplee’s homemade American meals with a Southern spin have earned rave reviews.

Suplee said he wondered if Boxcar40’s out-of-the-way location would work before being shown the unique property on Gumboro Road two years ago. Instead, the building’s exposed-brick walls, weathered hardwood, chipped paint and short garage doors — which once paved the way for firefighters from Pittsville’s Station 7 in horse-drawn wagons — provided immediate inspiration.

“I don’t know if I would have ever come here myself,” Suplee said. “But when you walk in, you can see right away it’s a gorgeous building. It’s a little bit industrial and fun. We found a good situation.”

With help from family and close friend Ashley Abell, owner of Attics of My Life in Selbyville, three months of what Suplee called “sweat equity” led to opening night on Sept. 12, 2018, the same night Hurricane Florence was expected to bear down on the Eastern Shore.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be a hurricane party or an opening party, but just come,” Suplee wrote on social media, in hopes of a blend of humor and honesty would attract locals to his restaurant. “You might not get exactly what you ordered, but you’re going to have a great meal.”

“We had a great opening night and a very successful couple of weeks,” he said. “Within two weeks, we even booked our first wedding. It was just off the charts how busy we were from the get-go. Customers love our service. They love the food.”


Boxcar40’s menu exceeds expectations. Even the staunchest kale haters have converted after tasting his fresh garlic kale.

“Everyone who has the grits says they love it,” Suplee said of his cheesy grits, a traditional Southern delicacy. “We’ve had quite a few people from Florida and the Carolinas dine with us, and a lot of them say they’re the best they’ve ever had.”

There’s a delicious meal for every budget, including a $10 burger made from a brisket, chuck and short-rib blend that Suplee said is very popular. Another hit is Paul’s brisket and pulled pork; cooked for 13 hours in a 300-lb Southern Pride smoker flavored with hickory logs. Pork jus from those ribs are a key ingredient in his barbecue sauce. One dollar from sales of the PVFD pork sandwich is donated to the Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, located across the street. 

“We’re a destination restaurant for unpretentious Southern cuisine,” Suplee said. “We have a growing wine list, outdoor summer seating, specialty-smoked goods, two full bars and regular entertainment. There’s definitely something for everyone here, and based upon our initial success, we’re looking forward to being tucked away in Pittsville for many years to come.”