Scott Umscheid knows opening a new barbecue restaurant in a town legendary for its offerings will be a challenge.
People have their favorites — Joe’s Kansas City, Arthur Bryant’s, Gates — or they just had barbecue last week and don’t want to try a new barbecue this week. Or there just can’t be good barbecue by the airport, can there?
“But the famous Kansas City barbecues started small and built a loyal following,” he said. “And for all the barbecue in Kansas City, I thought, ‘Why not do it in a different way?’ I have brisket and ribs but I also have tacos, burritos and bowls, inspired by Texas smoked meat tacos.”
And the Platte City resident wanted to have one of the best barbecues in the Northland, so he opened Scott’s Kitchen and Catering at Hangar 29, just east of Interstate 29, which is close to the airport at 11920 N. Ambassador Drive, in July.
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Umscheid, 47, said he has been cooking “my entire life” and has wanted to open a restaurant since he was 26. He joined Applebee’s International in 1988, when it only had about 50 restaurants, working as a training consultant for 40 new locations over four years.
He then became an assistant general manager at the Cheesecake Factory on the Country Club Plaza before returning to Applebee’s and managing eight training supervisors who opened about 100 new restaurants a year. He also had a five-year sales stint at US Foods, working with independent restaurant clients.
“I went in the back door of 75 restaurants seeing their underwear,” he said. “Seeing what they were doing right, what they were doing wrong, choosing items for the menu, negotiating pricing, choosing the right vendors. Having a good relationship with your food vendors is critical.”
He entered his first barbecue competition in 2009 under Buckwood Smokers with his brother-in-law, his brother-in-law’s father, and a friend.
“And I’ll be darned, we won first place in chicken. We haven’t won first place in chicken since. Maybe you had better not put that in the story,” Umscheid said with a laugh. “But I was getting older and it was time to be more aggressive and follow my dreams.”
One of his US Foods clients, Shining Stars Catering, persuaded him to moonlight as a chef from time to time. He did that for a year, before the catering company relocated in January. In May he signed a lease for their former freestanding building on Ambassador Drive, spending eight weeks converting it into a restaurant.
His wife, Dana, was in charge of decorating. Metal chairs from Tennessee set the tone for the decor, which includes galvanized pieces on the wall and framed printed drawings of old TWA planes on the walls.
A neighbor helped finish the tabletops, and metal wrapping for the counter came from KCI’s overhaul base. The 10 seats at the counter look into the kitchen through smoked glass. It also has six tables seating about 24 people inside and 12 seats on the patio. His barbecue awards and ribbons also are displayed.
Umscheid has already catered two events for Northland teachers, with more than 65 people at each event, and will do a wedding this Sunday.
For now, Scott’s Kitchen is just a breakfast and lunch stop, open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Breakfast includes the Twin Engine Eggs Your way with a choice of bacon or house-made sausage and Bern Street Burritos and Bowls (named after a KCI street) with a choice of chicken, breakfast sausage, chorizo, pulled pork, house-made chipotle ghost pepper jack sausage, brisket or burnt ends.
Lunch includes Flying Solo sandwiches, Prepare for Takeoff Tacos, the barbecue burritos and bowls, Tailspin smoked meat plates and Luggage Rack of Ribs. Sides include beans, cheesy potatoes and jalapeno apple slaw. But “burnt end anything” is the most popular order, Umscheid said.
One couple stopping by Tuesday confessed to being barbecue judges. They quickly finished their order.
“You guys, where’s all your food?” said Umscheid, as he worked the room.
“My staff knows that any plate we set down better be ready for the Internet so you better be on your game,” he said. “But just the way people go out of the way to describe our baked beans, or the comments in person or social media, Facebook or Yelp. It gives me goosebumps.”
Scott’s Kitchen and Catering at Hangar 29 joins more than 100 area barbecues in our list of “The A-Z list of Kansas City-area barbecue food trucks, restaurants.”