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Updates on Mr. Bacon BBQ, Hog Wild BBQ and Gran-Daddy's Q; family fun center loses key vote at City Hall
Don't let the name fool you. Mr. Bacon BBQ Bistro is not the city's newest black-tie establishment. But I can see how you would be confused. Bacon, after all, is the most distinguished of meats. To throw Mr. in front of it, takes it to a whole new level. And Bistro sounds like one of those restaurants where my wife makes me leave my toothpick at home.
So while it is not accurate to call Mr. Bacon BBQ Bistro a black-tie establishment, it is accurate to say the company that started out as a Lawrence catering firm has taken its biggest step yet to becoming a full-fledged barbecue restaurant.
Back in July 2012, we reported Mr. Bacon had moved its catering business into space at 846 Illinois St., next to Rick's Place tavern. From that spot, the company operated "pop-up barbecue" events that were open to the public. The business would put word out on Facebook or Twitter that it was going to smoke a bunch of meat and throw the doors open to the public.
But now Mr. Bacon owner Jeff Frye said customer demand has dictated that the business have a more standard restaurant format. So, Mr. Bacon is now open 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Plus the business will be open for Friday dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Plans also call for the restaurant to be open every KU home football game since the restaurant is along a popular walking route to the stadium.
"We're committed to it," Frye said of the new hours. "We've put the lettering on the door."
More hours may be coming in the future.
"This definitely is a chance for us to put our toe in the water on a full-fledged restaurant," Frye said. "A big part of the reason we have stayed this size is because we can completely control the experience. We're not turning the customer experience over to people who don't care as much. But we're finding great people to help us out, and that will allow us to expand."
And talk about an experience; the menu changes frequently and has a few items that will cause you to experience warm and fuzzy feelings deep inside your chest. Like Pig Pie. As the menu says, it is a "perfectly balanced meal in a boat" that includes pulled pork, beans and Fritos chips. Just thinking about it warms the grease in my arteries.
There also are a host of sandwiches, including The Boss, which has brisket, pork and bacon; a pulled pork sandwich; a brisket sandwich that includes an espresso-based dry rub; a smoked chicken sandwich; and one called Here Piggy Piggy Piggy, which features pulled pork, ham and bacon. The restaurant also offers some less traditional items such as a brisket-based chili and a pulled-pork green chile burrito.
The restaurant also provides a unique experience when it comes to alcohol. The business doesn't have a liquor license, so Frye said he is fine with customers bringing in their own craft beers or wine to enjoy in his dining room. Plus, the restaurant is right next door to Rick's Place, so Frye said many customers buy barbecue and then take it to Rick's and purchase beverages there.
That may be an important option to remember because Mr. Bacon's dining room is relatively small. It seats about 10 people, although Frye notes that a tattoo place that previously operated in the shopping center left him two picnic tables underneath a tree near the restaurant.
I know, it is hard to believe that you can leave your black tie at home. Or, wear it if you want, but if you eat barbecue anything like I do, rest assured that it won't leave black.
In other news and notes from around town:
• There is a lot of barbecue news out there these days, and some of it doesn't involve me setting my deck on fire.
We reported in December that Wichita-based Hog Wild Pit Bar B-Q is set to occupy a portion of the old Blockbuster building on 23rd Street. You may have wondered whatever happened to the plan. Well, rest assured that you'll soon have a chance to drip barbecue sauce all over your shirt at that location
Work to improve the site around the building is underway. Hog Wild owner T.D. O'Connell told me recently that he hopes to have the restaurant open by June, although he conceded developing in Lawrence is taking longer than he had expected.
But O'Connell said his company is excited about expanding into the city.
"It is a great expansion for us," O'Connell said. "There are a lot of people from Wichita who have kids up there in school. And there is just a good population base to serve."
As for the barbecue, O'Connell said the company strives to simply produce consistent, hickory smoked barbecue that uses high-quality meats. The menu shows a lot of traditional items such as brisket, pulled pork, hot links, turkey, chicken and ham. It also has an offering of giant stuffed potatoes and some exotic dish that I've never sampled called garden salads.
This will be the 15-year old company's ninth restaurant, with locations in Wichita, Hutchinson, Salina and El Dorado.
We also reported in December that a mattress retailer was slated to take the remaining space in the old Blockbuster building, which is at 1516 W. 23rd St. I checked in with the Wichita-based company that owns the building, and a representative there said that part of the development is still on track. But he said he wasn't yet able to release the name of the company, though he confirmed it is a retailer with multiple outlets around the region. I've certainly heard speculation that the large retailer Mattress Hub has an interest in Lawrence, but I can't say with any certainty that is the tenant. Look for the new mattress business to open this summer.
• Some of you were fans of what could best be described as the old-school style of Gran-Daddy's Q on 23rd Street. Well it looks like school is out for good for the restaurant. The restaurant has shut down at 1447 W. 23rd St. There is a sign in the window touting that a place called Fieldhouse BBQ will be coming soon. But thus far, I haven't been able to track down the folks who are behind that venture. As for Gran-Daddy's, it had a run of many years in the barbecue business. If my meat memory serves me, the business got started by selling slabs of ribs in the parking lot of the Checker's grocery store. For several weeks there had been a sign in the window of Gran-Daddy's that said the business was temporarily closed due to an illness. I hope to find out more about what is in store for the location and pass it along.
• As we have been reporting over the last several months and days, a plan for a family fun center near Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive in West Lawrence has been facing stiff opposition from neighbors in the area. Now it appears that the plan — which includes putt-putt golf, batting cages, an electric go-kart track and a clubhouse — is really on the ropes. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recommended denial of a key text amendment that is needed for the plan to move forward. And it wasn't even close. Planners recommended denial on a 9-1 vote. City commissioners could overturn the recommendation, but I'm not sure how likely that is. Neighbors in the area have become very organized on the issue, and have raised a host of concerns related to traffic, lighting and noise issues that would be associated with the fun center. The city's planning staff felt all those issues could be mitigated and recommended approval of the plan.
If the fun center doesn't proceed, it will be interesting to see what is proposed for the vacant piece of property. Adjacent pieces of property have been developed with apartments, but neighbors have been strongly opposed to more apartment development.
One last note on the project. In the past I've said the identity of the developer of the park hasn't been known. But recently an attorney for the development group shared with neighbors that area businessman Glen Lemesany is the developer of the proposed project. Lemesany owns several town homes and other residential property in Lawrence.