Chow Town

Topeka’s Hog, Herd & a Bird BBQ knows destructive, culinary powers of smoke and fire

HHB naked sampler sliders: turkey, pulled pork & beef with cheesy potatoes. Yum!
HHB naked sampler sliders: turkey, pulled pork & beef with cheesy potatoes. Yum! Special to The Star

Kim and Eddie Moege know firsthand the destructive power of fire.

Almost three years after they opened Hog, Herd & a Bird BBQ, a fire stemming from an electrical issue in the building completely destroyed the multistory vintage building in downtown Topeka that housed the barbecue restaurant and other businesses.

Kim and Eddie also know firsthand the culinary power of fire and smoke. They are glad they didn’t call it quits. Five months after the last ember from that dreadful fire went cold, they opened for business in new digs and are doing better than ever.

“A busy day at the old location is like a slow day here,” Eddie said.

With encouragement and support from family, friends and other downtown businesses, they moved two blocks south on Kansas Avenue to the ground floor of the Architect One building.

The new place is contemporary on the outside. No other barbecue joint on the planet can lay claim to a huge stainless steel logo installed outside the entrance on polished red granite.

HHB’s new digs, with Kansas limestone and brick walls, exposed venting, corrugated steel roofing panels, weathered barn wood and old farmstead doors suspended from the ceiling, is an upscale version of the original. And there’s more space and embellishments of extra wall-mounted HD TVs and a stainless steel serving line for order, pay and pickup.

While I lament the loss of the old place, I am totally onboard with the new place.

As a courtesy to the upstairs architects, Eddie’s Traeger grill, fired up with smoke and sporting a slogan outside the original HHB, “If it’s smokin’ we’re open,” has been mothballed. HHB’s other slogan, “Havin’ fun & puttin’ it on a bun,” survived.

I miss Eddie’s old Traeger, but it isn’t needed. Last week I could smell HHB smoke when I stepped outside City Hall after a meeting with Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast. We followed our noses to HHB for a delicious lunch.

I like to imagine that if John Steuart Curry’s famous depiction of John Brown in the Kansas State Capitol got a sniff of HHB smoke, he would suddenly come to life and rush to HHB for relief from the political smoke he endures beneath the Capitol dome.

HHB serves the expected four basic Chow Town food groups: chicken, brisket, pork butt and pork ribs — babybacks, not spares. Turkey, brats, pork burgers and chicken salad specials are showcased on select weekdays. The most popular sides are cheesy potatoes and smoked baked beans. Eddie has mastered the art of barbecuing tender moist meats with a kiss of smoke, excellent enough to enjoy naked, sauce optional and available if desired.

On your first lunch visit I recommend the sliders. For $9 you get two pulled pork, two brisket and two turkey sliders plus one side. Share the sliders with a friend and add another side. Tax and a soft drink included. Beers and cocktails are available at HHB’s new bar.

Note: HHB will be in on the action Oct. 10 at the annual Capital City Jazz & Food Truck Festival.

Thanks to a major re-do of Kansas Avenue and a variety of shopping and culinary attractions, downtown Topeka’s regreening, along with HHB’s survival and revival from a fiery setback is exciting. Give HHB a try. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays.

Hog, Herd & a Bird BBQ: 906 S. Kansas Ave., in Topeka; 785-246-6416; hhbbbq.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 a KCBS Hall of Flame inductee. 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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