Popular barbecue restaurant set to open in North Lawrence, expand sauce bottling business

In this file photo from Jan. 25, 2016, Mr. Bacon BBQ owner Jeff Frye preps his barbecue for a day's work at the restaurant, 846 Illinois St.

There are all types of ways to wear crimson as part of your crimson and blue Jayhawk outfit. Trust me, I’ve already discovered that a large stain of barbecue sauce on your shirt is one way, but soon the barbecue sauce may actually be officially licensed by KU.

Lawrence-based Mr. Bacon BBQ is working to finalize a deal to sell officially licensed KU barbecue sauce. It is part of an expansion plan for the popular barbecue restaurant.

You perhaps have noticed that Mr. Bacon BBQ no longer is operating in the shopping center at Ninth and Illinois streets near the KU campus. Don’t worry, though, the restaurant plans to reopen in a new, larger location that is needed, in part, to house a more substantial barbecue sauce bottling operation.

Jeff Frye, owner of Mr. Bacon BBQ, told me recently that the restaurant will move into space at 624 N. Second St. in North Lawrence. If you remember where the Iwig Dairy store used to be located, it is in that same building.

The expansion will give the restaurant more room for seating. The old location only had 10 seats, and Frye is estimating the new location will have at least 20. But a good amount of space will be used for the barbecue sauce operation.

Frye has long had some sauces that evoke KU imagery, including Rock Chalk Red and Crimson Blaze. But Frye has decided to take that idea to a new level. He’s going through the licensing process to actually have the Jayhawk emblazoned on the label of the barbecue sauce. Jayhawks may not be the only mascot Frye has in his sights.

“We will test it out with Jayhawks on the label and go from there,” he said. “It is a product that is not popularly licensed in that fashion.”

But Frye thinks it could be a hit. After all, there is a lot of barbecue sauce consumed at tailgate parties and game-watching parties. He thinks the Jayhawk connection also may make the sauce more popular as a gift option, which he said is already a surprisingly big part of his business.

“We’ve already found that some of our best locations for our sauce are gift shops,” he said.

Frye said he hopes to have the new KU emblazoned barbecue sauce on the market no later than the Christmas holiday shopping season.

As for fans of the actual barbecue that Frye produces, they should expect to see that sooner. The company, which still has its catering business in operation, plans to get the restaurant open in the coming weeks. (When I chatted with Frye a few weeks ago, he had hoped to be open by now, but these projects usually take longer than expected.)

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Frye is not planning on changing his barbecue style at the new restaurant.

“I tell people that it is Kansas barbecue, not Kansas City barbecue,” Frye said. “Excellent ingredients is what we are all about.”

The menu changes some, but pulled pork and brisket are staples. The restaurant also has gained some notoriety for its creation called a Pig Pie. Served in a cardboard boat, it includes pulled pork, Fritos, barbecue beans, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, Rock Chalk Red barbecue sauce, sweet-and-spicy coleslaw and bacon.

If you haven’t tried it, you either listen to your doctor way too much or haven’t gotten over to the restaurant during its fairly limited hours. The space on Illinois street was open only 10 hours per week — Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for lunch and Friday for dinner. When I chatted with Frye said he was considering expanding those hours, but hadn’t made a decision.

“We’re small enough now that I can still give personal attention to all the meat that I cook,” Frye said. “That is a big part of it for me. I believe that everything you make, you want to treat it like it is for your parents coming over for dinner.”