On Sunday, October 28, Hillside Grille will close. On Friday, November 2, the restaurant will reopen as Barrel Smoke BBQ.
The restaurant will be an extension of the Barrel Smoke BBQ business started by Eric White, of Templeton.
Denison residents may be familiar with his black food stand trailer that has visited Denison about once a week to sell barbecue foods.
The owners of Hillside Grille had been looking for someone to purchase the restaurant and approached White.
Chad Stephens, owner of Phil’s Lawn, Landscaping & Nursery, bought half of the Barrel Smoke BBQ company to make the restaurant purchase possible.
Stephens said he would not have been interested in investing in any other kind of restaurant.
“There are no other barbecue places around – not even in Carroll or Harlan,” he said.
He was interested in the idea because he is a big fan of barbecue.
“I have three smokers of my own at home,” he said.
White’s barbecue business gets high marks from customers, which is one reason Stephens decided to invest in the restaurant.
"Everybody loves his food," he said. "If you go to his Facebook page, he’s got 65 reviews and they are all five-star. Not one complaint."
All of the current staff members of Hillside Grille have been asked to stay on. Barrel Smoke BBQ is in the process of looking for an additional 20 to 30 employees, Stephens said.
"Any new restaurant is busy when they first open, plus we’re up against the holidays, too," he said. "The first couple months are going to be very busy."
Mary Henderson, the new general manager, started as a Hillside Grille employee.
Henderson and Stephens are working on all of the business details while White takes care of the kitchen needs.
"We bought one commercial smoker and now we found out we’re going to have to have two to make things work," Stephens said. "They hold about 1,000 pounds of meat each. After doing the math the last couple of days, we realized one is not going to be enough."
The restaurant will serve a variety of smoked brisket, chicken, turkey, pork loin, pulled pork and homemade macaroni and cheese.
One question many have asked of Stephens is whether the restaurant will serve anything other than barbecued foods.
The menu will include a range of burgers, soups, smoked chili, salads, appetizers and a full kids’ menu, he said.
Kathy Hasik, who currently makes Hillside’s popular desserts, will be staying on with Barrel Smoke BBQ.
"She’s going to continue making the desserts," Stephens said.
The bar/lounge area will also remain open.
Stephens has brought on bluespace creative, of Denison, to work on branding the company, which may include trademarking the name.
Marketing efforts will include widening the marketplace for White’s Barrel Smoke BBQ sauce, which is already sold in area Hy-Vee stores and will soon be available in area Fareway stores.
"We’re going to work on getting the barbecue sauce in stores all over," Stephens said.
One difference from Hillside Grille will be that Barrel Smoke BBQ will be open on Mondays.
The restaurant will be closed on Sundays and they have no plans to get into the breakfast business, Stephens said.
"Maybe down the road we’ll open up the lounge on Sunday afternoons for watching football with wings and beer," he said.
Barrel Smoke BBQ will eventually provide catering and lunchtime deliveries, but the immediate focus is on getting the restaurant up and running.
"The first impression is important when you open a restaurant," he said.
Stephens participated in the amateur contest at this year’s Tri City BBQ Fest, which he said was a lot of fun.
He hopes Barrel Smoke BBQ will be a top supporter of the 2019 festival.