Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 1999


January 20, 1999


As thousands of cars drive through the intersection of 23rd and Louisiana streets each day, many of them pause.

The whiff of smoky barbecue drifts to their drivers, making mouths water in anticipation of dinner.

Courtee Smith Jr. runs Gran-Daddy's BBQ Pit at Checkers Foods right on the corner. With two big grills in the parking lot and a stall inside the grocery store, Smith serves up ribs, baked beans and sauce to a batch of barbecue fans.

Smith has been running his grill in Lawrence for the past three years. He moved to Lawrence in 1991 to go to school at Kansas University. He studied business administration -- and now he's putting it to work running his barbecue joint with help from his father, Courtee Smith Sr.

"I kind of got him out of retirement," Smith said.

Gran-Daddy's BBQ Pit has been at Checkers for about eight months. Smith ran his grill at Choice Foods -- across the street in The Malls shopping center -- before moving to Checkers. After Choice Foods closed, he was offered the spot he now occupies.

Smith said he has a lot of regular customers.

"It takes a regular to walk all the way back in the store," his father said. "The biggest seller is ribs."

Smith serves pork spare ribs, short ends and long ends, beef ribs, pork steak sandwiches, turkey legs and chicken quarters and baked beans. His menu is rather stripped down, he said, because of space and labor restraints.

"Me and my father put most of it together," he said. "I've got so much I want to add."

Smith said he is searching for an indoor home for his barbecue business, a location with more room. Then, he said, he can add to his menu -- potato salad, cole slaw, beef brisket, catfish and fresh baked bread.

The Smiths have been barbecuing for several years. Before Smith moved to Lawrence, his whole family ran a barbecue on a periodic basis in St. Louis.

"We used to do it once a week," he said.

His recipes are all family favorites.

"Me and my sister critiqued our father through the years," he said.

They refined their barbecue sauce and their ribs. The sauce is "definitely" Smith's closely guarded secret, he said. He did, however, give away one of his secrets -- he uses fruit woods in his grills.

"We use a lot of fruit trees," he said. "It adds to the flavor. ... We use direct heat. We don't smoke our meat."

All summer and through the winter, Smith and his father have manned the grills in the parking lot.

"It's a long, strenuous task," Smith said.

He fires up his grills at 7 a.m. to have enough cooked for the lunch crowd, which rolls in around 11 a.m.

"It gets pretty hot out there in the summer," his father said. They spent seven days a week cooking in the hot parking lot.

During the winter, it is a chilly job to turn the ribs.

"The grill helps out a lot," Smith said.

Since his staff is down to just Smith and his father for a few months, they cut their hours back and are only operating three days a week, Thursday through Saturday.

While Smith said he can't wait to expand, business is going well.

"I love to do it," he said. "It is something I enjoy. I wake up in the morning, excited to go to work.

"We've had people come up from Kansas City -- that made me feel pretty good."

Of course, he said, his location hasn't hurt. According to city officials, about 45,000 cars pass through the intersection daily.

"That helps," Smith said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is

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