Adam Goicoa still refers to his new barbecue restaurant, just around the corner from his Liberty home, as the Chicken Shack.
The Down South Chicken Shack was the previous tenant, and by the pace of things, perhaps Goicoa’s restaurant, Mudhole BBQ, won’t be there for long, either.
Just five weeks after opening near Liberty Square, Mudhole BBQ is already outgrowing the spot at 416-B E. Mill St. Goicoa admits he is eyeing a larger location with higher traffic that just happens to be occupied by a barbecue chain. And he has also had some area developers contacting him about relocating.
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After winning first place in pork at the 35th American Royal World Series of Barbecue Open in 2014 with a perfect score of 180, Goicoa is pretty confident in his barbecue. That confidence has since been bolstered by the customer response to his catering, food truck and restaurant.
The menu is small but includes Kansas City barbecue standards and a few not-so-standards.
There are sausage platters; pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket or burnt ends sandwiches; brisket press (described as your mom’s grilled cheese made with brisket); and half or full racks of ribs. Sandwiches and ribs come with a choice of beans, cheesy corn, coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad or tater tots.
But there’s also a Philly cheesesteak made with the brisket and Cowboy Nachos with tortilla chips, pulled pork or pulled chicken, nacho cheese, salsa, sour cream and jalapenos. The Game Changer tater tots are smothered with cheesy corn, brisket and cheese with a side of slaw. The menu also includes the Mudhole Sundae — beans, pulled pork or pulled chicken and coleslaw served in a cup.
Two Asian/Kansas City barbecue fusion items are sure to cause double-takes for new customers: the Mudhole Rangoon — burnt ends tucked into a wonton with cream cheese, barbecue rub and a touch of barbecue sauce — and the Mudhole Egg Rolls stuffed with pulled pork.
As an 18-year-old, Goicoa became a wildland firefighter, taking on out-of-control blazes in 46 states — including Alaska and Hawaii — as well as Canada.
But after an 18-year career that often kept him away from his young family, he started making plans for a new job that would keep him by their side, where he “could watch them grow.”
He took his award-winning barbecue and started a catering company in 2011 under Mudhole BBQ. It was so successful he added a food truck in 2015. Earlier this year he partnered up with a food truck employee, Jennifer Barnes, to open his first restaurant. They met playing softball, and she started helping him with social media promotions and then filling in on the food truck.
Barnes’ twin 15-year-old daughters, Ada and Emilie, also help out, and her 9-year-old Sarah has worked the food truck a couple of times.
Goicoa’s wife, Stacey, works at Cerner full time but helps out in the evenings and on weekends. Their 10-year-old son, David, works the fryer and makes sides, while their 12-year-old daughter Hayli, who can handle most any position, wraps pickle spears and fills to-go sauce containers after school.
“She’s a regular employee wrapped up in a 12-year-old body. I even told some of my employees that if she outworks them again they won’t have a job,” Goicoa said. “She’s put away a lot of money, but my son gets it and spends it.”