Chow Town

Independence’s A Little BBQ Joint is a tasty success

The house specialty, bacon-wrapped smoked meatloaf, is served on Wednesdays and sells out quickly.
The house specialty, bacon-wrapped smoked meatloaf, is served on Wednesdays and sells out quickly. Special to The Star

Success tastes great. That is especially true in Independence, when a small newcomer on the barbecue scene is able to create a popular neighborhood joint.

And for those of us who love Kansas City-style barbecue, the smoky flavors created at A Little BBQ Joint taste great.

Don Bauer, along with his son Fabian, have built this local gem and have an uplifting story of family connections, unique skills and neighborhood support to go with the delicious food.

A Little BBQ Joint has been open a little over two years, but the family has been catering local parties and church events for years. Not only did people enjoy the meat, they continually asked for the sides — their baked beans, cheesy corn and coleslaw.

Those popular side dishes were the family’s own recipes, and the requests just kept coming. They built a local following for their food.

Bauer’s father was in the restaurant business, so both Don and Fabian had hands-on experience. The idea for their own establishment was nurtured by the locals who enjoyed their food and wanted a “sit-down” restaurant in the neighborhood.

The restaurant still benefits from that neighborhood support. While they advertised when they opened, mostly in church bulletins and newsletters, today fans support them with word-of-mouth referrals and lots of social media. The tables are bustling in this friendly, fun neighborhood restaurant.

Ribs and burnt ends are tied for the most popular menu selection, and they are followed closely by pulled pork. On Wednesday, the house specialty is bacon-wrapped, smoked meatloaf, but if you want it, go early because it sells out. Of course, the ever popular sides continue to round out the meal.

The sauces are their own recipes, too, and the amusing names nod to families, but Bauer quickly adds that it is any family and not his. The Sweet Sister sauce is the mild offering. The Mad Housewife sauce features a medium spice, while the Mean Mother-in-Law sauce is the spiciest.

The location and design of the restaurant is another family story. Bauer owned the building, but it was used as a metal shop for his nearby auto body repair business. They remodeled it into the restaurant.

The whimsical décor is not only fun, it is a tribute to their skill. The many decorative pieces and each piece of furniture except the chairs were built by Fabian. Car bumpers extend out of the walls or car seats form a booth, while a wheel may be spotted as a table base.

The huge outdoor deck sports a pontoon boat and trucks. Fun elements showcase his incredible skill and make the ambiance unique and welcoming.

Pop in and in addition to Don and Fabian, you may meet Don’s wife, Bonnie, or Fabian’s wife, Karen. Today, Don’s granddaughter and grandson work there nearly full time.

Great food, family ties and neighborhood support continue to make a tasty recipe for A Little BBQ Joint, which is at 1101 W. U.S. 24 in Independence.

Kathy Moore is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is The Newlywed Cookbook: Cooking Happily Ever After. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at