Chow Town

Firefighter heating up the competition in Kansas City barbecue scene

Fireside’s What-Not Sampler meat medley of ham, turkey, brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork and homemade sausage with cheesy corn, cheesy potatoes and baked beans on the side.
Fireside’s What-Not Sampler meat medley of ham, turkey, brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork and homemade sausage with cheesy corn, cheesy potatoes and baked beans on the side. Special to The Star

Some Chow Towners fight fire. Others cook with fire. Some do both. Of those who do both, retired Kansas City firefighter “Fast Eddy” Maurin of Cookshack fame is best known locally and globally.

More recently, Nick Silvio and Greg Barnes joined the ranks of Chow Town firefighters who are making their marks as barbecue entrepreneurs.

Silvio, an active Kansas City firefighter, co-owns and operates Hawg Jaw Que & Brew and Em Chamas Brazilian style barbecue in his spare time.

Barnes, a retired Overland Park firefighter, opened Fireside BBQ on July 31, 2014. His daughter, Kelly Barnes, and nephew Ryan Barnes signed on as managers to help him fulfill a longtime dream after 32 years of distinguished public service.

Barnes brings an impressive pitmaster skill set to Fireside. He competed as “Jacks or Better” at barbecue contests with his dad, the late Jack Barnes, and with fellow firefighter Tim Byrnes when Jack Barnes retired from the team. In addition to award-winning competition barbecue and barbecue catering gigs, Barnes often pulled firehouse cook duty during 24 hour shifts at the station. Somehow that happens when colleagues rave about your cuisine.

Fireside slipped under my barbecue radar during research for Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style. Carl Wisdom, Roeland Park City forester, told me about it. That’s how most new customers discover Fireside: word-of-mouth. When I told my friend Gary Bronkema about Wisdom’s recent Fireside tip, he hadn’t heard of it either. Gary went on to say, “Carl knows wood and Carl knows barbecue. Let’s try it.”

I expected to see a rustic free-standing building similar to but not as large as K&M Bar-B-Q in Spring Hill. Instead, it’s in a shopping center without a rustic exterior. Step inside, however, and you immediately see, feel and inhale hickory, pecan and sometimes oak barbecue ambiance.

A firefighter theme prevails at Fireside, reflecting Barnes’ public service career. Fireside also pays tribute to police and military public servants who are engaged in assuring public safety.

When I asked Barnes if he knows Doug Brobeck, he said he has eaten at Brobeck’s and likes his barbecue, but he hasn’t met Brobeck yet. Because of their similar philosophies about meat and sauce, they will have instant rapport when they do meet.

Barnes’ slogan, “Our Meat Is Boss Without the Sauce…” is in step with Brobeck’s philosophy. Both agree that barbecue is about meat, with or without sauce. Both offer customers a variety of sauces. At Brobeck’s, customers are invited to bring their own sauce.

Barnes and Brobeck are not opposed to barbecue sauce. Their point is that barbecue is about meat. If meat is bad, sauce won’t make it better. Furthermore, since sauce preferences vary, why not offer customers a variety of sauces?

Fireside’s sauce medley covers the spectrum from a fire-kissed house sauce to Cowtown’s Night of the Living Bar-B-Q, Gates Extra Hot and Huy Fong Sriracha, with Stockyard and Sweet Baby Ray’s on the mild side.

The What-Not Sampler is a good place to start. It includes ham, turkey, brisket, pulled pork, homemade sausage and burnt ends — all of the meats except ribs and burgers. Tasty cheesy corn, cheesy potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw and deviled egg potato salad sides also come with the sampler.

To complete the sampler sans chicken — featured on Fridays — add pork spareribs. Reusable and recyclable plastic carryout containers are available for take-home leftovers.

Fireside lands on the thin side of the thick versus thin debate over ham, turkey and beef presentation. Gary and I rated the spareribs, burnt ends, pulled pork and homemade sausage, in that order, as our Fireside favorites. The ribs are smoked red to the bone, meet the gentle-tug-contest-judging standard and merit top scores on tenderness and taste.

Short on fat and big on flavor, Fireside’s homemade sausage is perfect for guilt-free enjoyment. Likewise Fireside’s burnt ends are a lean, flavorful combo of bark and meat with a kiss of smoke. Although Fireside’s Southern-style pulled pork is boss without sauce, I’d love to complement it with a touch of Carolina-style vinegar or mustard sauce.

If you can’t save room for Barnes’ firehouse favorite dump cakes, take some home to enjoy later.

Bottom line: Fireside BBQ’s Greg Barnes and team know fire, smoke and meat. Expect friendly service and quality barbecue when you treat yourself to a Fireside feast.

Fireside BBQ is at 10400 Mastin St. in Overland Park. Its telephone number is 913-310-9227 and it can be found on the Web at fireside-bbq.com.

Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent release is America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk.

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