|| Ay, There’s the Rub — With Sauce on the Side Celebrating Five Years of Smokin’ Guns BBQ & Catering
NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Shakespeare’s Hamlet talks “rub,” he means “problem.” When Smokin’ Guns BBQ & Catering talks “rub,” the only problem is deciding whether to eat those ribs with or without the sauce. The rub is that good.
It has been five years since Smokin’ Guns opened its doors at 1218 Swift Ave., but the rubs were already famous. They had helped owners Phil and Linda Hopkins take the grand champion title at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbeque Contest, in 1999. Today their rubs are for sale in their restaurant, on the Internet and at specialty stores across the country.
Business has been good at Smokin’ Guns from the day the 50-seat restaurant opened on January 27, 2003. Phil and his father had gutted Buck’s Koffee Kup, a diner that had been around since the 1940s, and redone it from front to back. Now, in addition to the large Jack Daniel’s Invitational trophy on the wood-paneled south wall, the place is festooned with blue, red, yellow, green and purple ribbons, the winnings from the 20+ competitions Phil and Linda take part in each year.
From the beginning, Smokin’ Guns, which is also the name Linda and Phil compete under, has been a family affair. In addition to helping with construction, Phil’s father has also made deliveries and helped out around the restaurant. Phil and Linda’s son Kevin works there every day, doing whatever needs to be done. Three of Phil’s sisters have pitched in at one time or another, along with two of Linda’s nieces and her nephew. Linda’s mother, Mary, also works at the restaurant twice a week.
Clearly, the Hopkins’ enthusiasm for their craft and their business is infectious, and it shows. “I get to live a dream,” Phil says. “I get up every day and cook barbeque and see people. Every day is a good day.”
The restaurant is open from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, so it draws a lot of its trade from people who work in the area. But Smokin’ Guns’ reputation has spread. Its clientele now includes area politicians, a local chief of police and a city attorney, along with visitors who follow the savory scent of slow-cooked beef, pork and poultry carried across the Missouri River from downtown Kansas City, Crown Center and points even farther south. Phil and Linda plan a week-long celebration in March to mark their five years in business. No doubt they’ll serve up a few pounds of barbeque, along with some of Linda’s award-winning desserts. It will be a celebration of family, friends and community as well as an anniversary. Proceeds from the event will go to help the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, as a way of spreading their good fortune to others.
And, also without doubt, their guests will sit at the checkered-cloth tables and struggle with the same decision: “To sauce or not to sauce.” Because that is the question.
Contact: Michael Gregg
Photos by Mike Schweder and Stripe