New barbecue restaurant opens in Grove City, Minn.
GROVE CITY — If you’ve ever wondered what that food tastes like at barbecue competitions, The Hog-n-The-Road restaurant can show you.
The barbecue restaurant opened a couple weeks ago in Grove City. Co-owner and executive chef Chris DeKoster has won awards for his barbecue, and he serves competition-level meats in his restaurant.
Hog-n-The-Road is open Wednesday through Saturday evenings — the bar opens at 4 p.m., the kitchen at 5 p.m. The kitchen will close at 10 p.m., but the bar will be open until last call.
DeKoster and co-owner and fiancée Allison Docken acquired the 100-year-old building that once housed Grove City’s grocery store in July and spent months remodeling and refurbishing it.
A cube-style floor-to-ceiling bookshelf stands just outside the kitchen, filled with hickory, pecan and apple firewood. It’s the wood they use to smoke their meat on site. “That’s my bookshelf, I read wood,” he said.
“It creates a nice look, and people know we actually use it.”
DeKoster, 37, said he grew up near Hutchinson, went to cooking school and worked under master chefs for years.
After a back surgery about five years ago, he said, he spent some time in the south and learned about barbecue. He worked with award-winning barbecue chefs and decided he wanted to enter competitions on his own.
It wasn’t long before he was beating some of the folks he’d learned from, he said, and his meats are often in the top 5 when he goes to competitions.
DeKoster and Docken have operated a full commercial kitchen on wheels for several years. Their custom-built aluminum trailer holds a full commercial kitchen and a smoker that can hold 500 pounds of meat.
They have served special events and have taken it to competitions. They are popular at competition, because they sell their competition meat out of the trailer.
Home base was in the Bemidji area for years, but they left because of the long, hard winters. “We had to put the trailer away in the winter,” he said.
They also wanted one place to stay, because being on the road with the trailer is tiring and expensive because of fuel prices.
With the refurbished old grocery store, they are able to stay in one place, while still using the trailer for some special events.
“We want to be able to sell the same competition meats that you see at these pit master shows,” he said. “Not many do it.”
Serving competition quality meat requires long, hard hours, he said. Meat is smoked 12 to 14 hours.
“We follow the rules of cooking,” he said. “We want people to know we do things the right way.” For example, their pulled pork is pulled by hand, with no slicing or chopping done.
The meat served in the restaurant is certified Angus beef and purchased fresh from Iowa.
The experience at the Hog-n-The-Road falls somewhere between a barbecue restaurant and fine dining, he said.
The menu is varied, from barbecue ribs to French fries to burgers.
As the staff becomes more comfortable with the operation, lunch hours and nightly specials including pasta and seafood will be introduced, he said. “Initially, they’re coming to check this barbecue out.”
Takeout is available, including several kinds of meat, coleslaw, beans and DeKoster’s signature barbecue sauce.
The only real hint that the restaurant was a grocery store is an old cooler on a back wall.
After tearing apart two of the coolers, he said, they just couldn’t face dismantling a third one. It is no longer refrigerated, but the lights work, so they filled it with rows of brightly colored bottles and turned it into a conversation piece. The restaurant’s wine wall is located next to it.
“We found this little joint; it hadn’t had any renovations done,” he said. They refinished the original maple floors and the wood ceiling.
A wall down the middle separates the dining room from the bar, with a kitchen in between so people can watch him work. The bar has a small stage in a back corner and will have live music on weekends.
They built the hickory bar and the dining tables by hand.
“We wanted to break the mold with this place and make sure you have a great experience,” he said. “There’s nothing in here that isn’t done by hand, or homemade; it all comes out in the food.”