Slap’s BBQ wants to make Strawberry Hill squeal
Brothers Mike and Joe Pearce of the Squeal Like a Pig BBQ team were sworn to secrecy by the producers of Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters. The brothers have known for weeks that they won the show’s regional competition, but confidentiality agreements kept them silent until the program was broadcast April 26. (The Pearces move on to the semifinal round in late May with a $50,000 grand prize on the line.)
And now another secret is out. In June, the two of them and longtime competition team partner Brandon Whipple (who wasn’t on the TV show; the producers limit all teams to two members) will open their first restaurant, Slap’s BBQ, at 553 Central in Kansas City, Kansas. Slap’s is the acronym for the team’s name, which Joe Pearce says was “great for a team name but not so catchy for a restaurant.”
Maybe not, but the Pearces have been doing a boom business selling T-shirts with the team logo for more than a year.
Slap’s future Strawberry Hill home is sheathed in red metal siding. It was occupied by Sophie’s Deli for three decades and, more recently, by the short-lived Millie’s Café. This neighborhood holds a deep significance for the Pearce brothers.
“Our grandmother used to live down the street,” Mike Pearce says. “My grandfather was arrested near here for transporting moonshine during Prohibition.”
That grandfather, “Hobo Mike” Gravino, is something of a legend in these parts. While serving a six-month sentence for the liquor charge, Hobo Mike’s younger brother Rocco showed up to visit him in jail. They switched clothes, and the brother stayed behind to serve out Mike’s sentence.
“Our grandfather came back to Strawberry Hill to get married,” Mike Pearce says.
In a few days, two 500-gallon tanks – formerly propane tanks refitted as smokers – will arrive at this location and get set up on the side of the building for burning hickory, oak and pecan woods.
“We plan to be smoking between 250 and 500 pounds a meat a day when we get going,” says Mike Pearce, who plans to serve brisket, burnt ends, turkey, chicken, pork, ribs and sausage in the 35-seat dining room or for carryout.
There’s still work to be done inside the building. The red linoleum tiles need to be ripped out, and the concrete flooring underneath sanded, shellacked and polished. The drop ceiling is also coming out. The red and silver walls need to be repainted, and beer coolers will be installed. Slap’s BBQ has applied for a beer-only license and plans to sell Boulevard bottles and a few other local beers.
The menu hasn’t been completed yet, but the Slap’s team has plenty of ideas. “We’ll have two kinds of beans, spicy and regular,” Joe Pearce says. “Using our sauces, of course, which will also be for sale. We know we’ll have a gourmet mac and cheese. The rest we’ll try as specials in the beginning. We want to find out what our public wants.”
Joe Pearce is already a full-time Slap’s BBQ employee. Mike Pearce and Whipple have given notice at their day jobs with a local mortgage-servicing company and will be working full time at the restaurant by the end of May.
“We think this is going to be a great location for us,” Mike Pearce says. “The community wants us here. We’ve gotten so much positive feedback.”
When Slap’s BBQ opens in June, the plan is to be open seven days a week, serving from 11 a.m. until 7 or 8 p.m.
“This is going to be a workingman’s barbecue,” Joe Pearce says. “Nothing too fancy, not even for dessert. We might have smoked brownies.”
“Cobbler,” Whipple says.
“Povitica,” Mike Pearce says.
Or maybe all three.