New barbecue restaurant on 23rd Street; big BBQ festival returns for 20th year; food truck festival, swap meet also set for this weekend

Finishing off a half slab of ribs while putting in a full tank of gas sounds about like the right equation. (Plus, the windshield squeegee is nearby to clean up with.) Such a plan is now possible in Lawrence as a barbecue restaurant has opened inside a local convenience store.

Stanley James Smokehouse has opened inside the Zarco convenience store at 1500 E. 23rd St. The barbecue joint takes the place of the Sandbar sub shop.

Don’t let the gas station location fool you into thinking this is some type of typical convenience store food. It is not barbecue from a bag, and general manager Rosie Newman was happy to prove it on Friday morning. She opened up the smoker to show that it had 40 slabs of ribs on it.

Just don’t touch the smoker. That’s her domain. She also serves as the pitmaster for Stanley James. For the past four years, she was a pitmaster at Herman’s Meat & Smokehouse, which is a popular barbecue joint in Topeka.

“I’m pretty particular about who touches my smoker,” Newman said. “I spend a lot of time with the meat.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Rosie Newman is general manager of Stanley James Smokehouse at 1500 E. 23rd Street.

While Newman is the general manager of the restaurant, two local businessmen teamed up to start Stanley James. Scott Zaremba of Zarco and J.R. Lewis of Checkers grocery store are partners in the restaurant. The name is a combination of their fathers, Stan Zaremba and Jim Lewis.

“We wanted to name it after the two dads who really have forged all this,” said Zaremba, who noted that he and J.R. went to school together in Lawrence. “We’ve been talking about this for a few years now.”

Zaremba said he decided to make the switch from the sub sandwich shop to barbecue, in part, because his family has had a long tradition of cooking barbecue. His dad once had a barbecue team that competed at the American Royal. Plus, Zaremba said he was looking for a food concept that was different from what is found in so many other convenience stores. The restaurant is set up for takeout but also has about a half-dozen tables.

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As for the food, there’s lots of traditional barbecue dishes and at least one that you may not find on your smoker much: smoked bologna.

“It will surprise you,” Newman said.

The more traditional items, though, are hickory-smoked meats, including pulled pork, brisket, chicken, turkey breast, sausage and full and half slabs of ribs. Newman thinks the brisket and burnt ends will end up being some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Sides include beans, potato salad, cole slaw, mac and cheese, and baked potatoes that can be loaded with meat. The menu also features homemade cobblers and breakfast items, including biscuits and gravy.

Zaremba is not ruling out opening another Stanley James location in Lawrence. He is in the process of redeveloping property at Ninth and Iowa streets. He previously filed plans with the city to put in a 150-foot tunnel car wash, demolish a couple of buildings and build a new 5,700 square-foot retail building and convenience store. The plans were filed last summer, but construction hasn’t started on the site. Zaremba told me the project is active but still in the development phase.

In other news and notes:

• I may need a windshield squeegee for each hand this weekend. It is a big time for barbecue in Lawrence. The Lawrence Sertoma Club is hosting the 20th Annual State Championship BBQ Cook-Off at Broken Arrow Park near 31st and Louisiana streets.

The BBQ competition attracts 48 teams that will compete in 48 categories of cooking and will be vying for $4,800 in prize money. Due to its state championship status, the winner of the competition is eligible to compete in the American Royal competition in Kansas City, which is generally considered the national championship of U.S. barbecue.

The event also is a big fundraiser for a longtime nonprofit that helps area kids. The Sertoma club donates all proceeds from the event to the Sertoma-Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Camp. The camp is held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and provides services to about 90 speech or hearing-impaired children.

Teams started arriving on Friday, but the contest is on Saturday. Members of the public can sample food and vote on the People’s Choice winner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets for the tasting area are $6. The Wakarusa Fire Department also is hosting a pancake and sausage feed from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday.

photo by: Nick Krug

Glynn Sheridan, with the Butts

• It is not just barbecue that is making it a big food weekend in Lawrence. The Kansas Food Truck Festival is set for 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Warehouse Arts District near Ninth and Pennsylvania streets. The festival is a fundraiser for the Lawrence food pantry Just Food. The festival is scheduled to have more than 30 food trucks featuring everything from barbecue to pizza to something called Korean Mexican fusion. The event also will have multiple stages with bands and buskers. Admission tickets are $10.

photo by: John Young

Alex Frank, of Kansas City, Mo., serves a line of customers from the window of the Street Wings food truck during the second annual Lawrence Food Truck Festival, Saturday, May 2, 2015 in east Lawrence.

• Perhaps the oldest event going on this weekend, though, is the 55th annual Lawrence Swap Meet. The local antique auto club hosts the event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, and it brings a few thousand people to town looking for parts and pieces to old automobiles. The event gets started Friday and lasts through Sunday, but Saturday is the biggest day for the meet. Admission is free, but parking on the fairgrounds costs $5. Several area 4-H clubs get proceeds from various parts of the event, such as food sales and parking.

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 5, 2016, Joe Arneson, of Lawrence, wipes down a sign in preparation for the annual Lawrence Region Antique Auto Club of America Swap Meet at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.