In their more than 20 years as truckers, Sharol and Curtis “Bear” Thompson would make side trips to eat at barbecue restaurants, cafés, roadside stands, and dives from coast-to-coast.
It was their way of comparing the foods to the barbecue Bear would whip up for his friends and family back home.
Some was too sweet, some too hot, and some, well, the meat was just too dry. Bear took it all in and used it to “perfect” his barbecue and Bears Rub.
Now retired from trucking, the couple opened Bears Smoke Shack in the Northland in April. Bear, being from the Ozarks, dubs his barbecue Ozark-style. He uses only hickory wood and while he considers his sauce pretty good, he’s more concerned with the meat.
“I wonder ‘what are you trying to hide’ when places put a lot of sauce on it,” he said.
He does put hot sauce on his chicken wings, a requirement for hot wings.
All the menu items are made in house, except for the potato salad which takes too much time to prepare, Bear said. There’s Bears Toothpicks (slab or ribs), Bear Feathers (smoked chicken), the Bar-B-Q Pie (chopped brisket or pulled pork on a bed of French fries or Fritos, all topped with Bears smoked beans), along with sandwiches and sides.
Sauces range from Regular Bears Sauce, to the Raging Bears Sauce, to the Man Killer Bear Sauce, “if you dare,” Bear says, with an eyebrow slightly raised in challenge.
The couple have decorated the restaurant at Englewood Plaza, 412 N.W. Englewood Road, with antiques from Sharol’s father’s backyard — old farm equipment and such — along with bear-themed items including a sign: “Bear hugs on request.”
For Joyce Smith’s listing of area barbecue restaurants, visit economy.kansascity.com and “The long and the short of KC BBQ.”
Changes at Backfire BBQ
Steve Schussler — creator of Rainforest Café and T-Rex Café — spent three years developing his Backfire BBQ Featuring Orange County Choppers before going up against Kansas City’s famed ribs and beef operations.
Backfire opened in late 2009 in what is now the Legends Outlets Kansas City. It has custom-built motorcycles by Orange County Choppers, an open flame “hot pit” where customers can make s’mores, and a retail shop with motorcycle themed merchandise.
Chicago’s Levy Restaurants oversaw day-to-day operations.
But less than three months after opening, Backfire was hit with nine critical violations during an inspection by the Department of Agriculture following a complaint.
Now Levy is out and Kansas City’s PB&J Restaurants has taken over management of the restaurant.
PB&J has the local Red Robin Gourmet Burgers franchise and its own concepts, YiaYia and the Burnt End BBQ & Catering, as well as other management contracts.
“We love the concept. We’ll just fine-tune it a little bit, expand the menu, expand the barbecue with burnt ends, add steak and salmon, more variety,” said Paul Khoury, co-owner of PB&J. “We’ll bring in more Harley-Davidson merchandise and get more involved in the community.”
In a statement Levy Restaurants said: “Levy Restaurants and Schussler Creative have reached a mutual agreement to end their partnership at Backfire BBQ restaurant effective June 13. We have enjoyed our partnership and wish the Schussler team much success.”
Schussler said it was especially important to ramp up operations at Backfire now that the Legends is experiencing a rebirth with its repositioning as an outlet center and the influx of people coming to the new Livestrong Sporting Park nearby.
“Local management is really important,” Schussler said. “We wanted to have someone with a vested interest in the community.”
The owners of Westport’s famed Bluestem restaurant have long wanted to open a second location in Leawood.
Now they’ve taken the first step.
A few months ago Colby and Megan Garrelts began consulting with Leawood’s Trezo Vino.
Three weeks ago Trezo Vino Wine Bistro’s owners put them under a management contract and they have since been working on a new menu that will take the restaurant back to its authentic Italian roots.
“The food and restaurant didn’t have a single identity. They were serving tacos and lobster mac-n-cheese,” Colby Garrelts said. “It was an Italian tapas wine bistro, That’s Italian and French.”
The new menu is now “95 percent” in place except for a few tweaks here and there. It includes smoked ricotta ravioli, shrimp carbonara, and potato gnocchi, filet, and salmon, along with pizza and flatbread. The Ahi tuna tacos and other favorites can still be had in the bar area.
“We’ll keep them for awhile but I want people to fall in love with new classics,” Colby Garrelts said.
Trezo Vino opened in March 2008 in Park Place, 11570 Ash St., and has about 50 full and part-time employees.
Colby and Megan Garrelts will continue to work on the concept they originally planned to open in Leawood and perhaps debut it next year.
Trezo Vino managing partner Mark Walker said he hired the couple because he wanted to get back to development and not be a day-to-day operations person. Now he’ll help them get financing in place for their Leawood concept.
“This puts Colby in the market where he can understand the customer profile,” Walker said.
Park Place landlord and developer Jeff Alpert said: “Bluestem runs a world class operation.”
Colby Garrelts has been nominated several times for Best Chef in the Midwest by the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine Magazine named him as one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs” in 2005.
Bluestem is at 900 Westport Road. Its “Bluestem The Cookbook” comes out this fall.
Less than a year after opening in Park Place, Carmen’s Café at 11526 Ash St., Leawood, is expanding, opening a private party room seating about 50 to 60 people. A mid-July opening is scheduled.
Health inspection violations
Food service operations recently inspected by the Environmental Health Division of the Jackson County Public Works Department with three or more critical violations included:
Hy-Vee, 601 W. U.S. 40, Blue Springs, had four critical violations during a June 15 routine inspection. They included: Pasta and chicken held at improper temperatures on the salad bar.
The store manager had no comment.
McDonald’s, 8909 E. Missouri 350, had three critical violations during a June 15 inspection following a complaint. They included: Many houseflies throughout restaurant. The operation is required to have pest control treat for the houseflies and a reinspection must be done by Saturday.
The manager had no comment.
For complete Jackson County inspection reports, go to http://www.jacksongov.org/FSI/
Cityscape runs Tuesdays and Fridays. To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send e-mail to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook at JoyceKC.