In 1988, I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times about a guy who was selling barbecue out of an old school bus in Putney, VT. His name was Curtis Tuff. About 10 years earlier he had opened Curtis’ All American Bar-B-Q (''The 9th Wonder of the World'', as the sign on the school bus proclaimed). Being from Manchester, NH, my only exposure to barbecue was the hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken that my mom would grill up in the backyard from time to time. To this day, I still have a soft spot for a piece of grilled chicken with that old school Kraft original BBQ sauce all blackened and burnt on.
At some point later that summer a bunch of us made the road trip out to Vermont to check out Curtis' for ourselves. I’ll never forget pulling up to the restaurant and seeing Curtis outside under a tin roof, cooking ribs and chicken on a chain link fence. It had been stretched across a 300-gallon oil drum, the kind you would find in the basement of your house. I watched in wonder as he basted the meats with a big floor mop that was in a 5-gallon bucket on the ground. My only experience with ribs prior to this was the ones from Chinese restaurants which had very little meat on them. Needless to say, I was very intrigued by the entire experience. I loved the food and I loved the atmosphere that surrounded it.
I returned home from Vermont that day with a newly found passion for barbecue. I recall visiting the NH state offices later that year and explaining to them that I had found a dirt lot in Manchester and I wanted to start selling barbecue out of it. They were very quick to inform me that would not be happening. I would need an actual building and commercial kitchen with sinks, bathrooms, floors, and of all things, a paved parking lot. “But over in Vermont” I quipped... they were having none of it. Looks like it was back to the drawing board for KC’s Rib Shack.
Fast forward 10 years to 1998. My business partner, Greg, and I had both found ourselves at a crossroads in our careers. I suggested opening a barbecue restaurant. Although neither of us had ever worked a day in a restaurant, we did know how to cook some good barbecue which I had been perfecting ever since going to Curtis’ a decade earlier. Between the two of us we only had about $4000, of which my share was to be my apartment rent for the next few months. We found a little hole in the wall in Litchfield, NH, that had been a Chinese takeout joint. We took the $4000 we had between us and put up $3000 for rent and bought some equipment with the remaining $1000. I actually slept in the restaurant for a bit while we were getting it ready because I had gotten kicked out of my apartment for not paying the rent. On the day we were supposed to open we needed to borrow $500 in order to purchase the food to open the doors. Not quite how they tell you to do it in the business books. We took our sales from day one and purchased supplies for day two. If we had had a few slow weeks when we opened I don’t think we would’ve lasted the month.
Although we have grown quite a bit and learned a lot since 1998, one thing has never changed: our commitment to serve what we feel is the best barbecue you can get anywhere. We really can’t thank you enough for dining with us and making all of this possible. Dive in! I hope you brought your meat eating clothes. If there is ever a reason to contact me, please do not hesitate. My direct line is: 603-858-7427 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.