Keaton Kimble doesn't mind running counter to a few long-held beliefs.
Tall and rail-thin, he's living proof that you can trust a skinny chef.
Also, Kimble is demonstrating that you can pick up Texas, Kansas City or North Carolina-quality barbeque in Le Mars, Iowa.
Um ... do we mean Le Mars as in "The Ice Cream Capital of the World!?!"
Yep, the Le Mars-born Kimble is making classic, Southern-style comfort food faves at Iowa Barbeque Company, 100 Plymouth St., S.W., in the heart of the Plymouth County seat's downtown district.
Similarly, owners Sandra and Gary Walker are bringing upscale sports bar food to Sergeant Bluff's Sgt. Brew Grill & Pub, 701 First St.
Wow, you can actually leave Sioux City's city limits and still discover top-notch food. Who knew?
Well, at least when it comes to Iowa Barbeque Company, owner Joe Sitzmann knew he had a BBQ expert in Kimble.
BBQ IS A-OK IN 'THE ICE CREAM CAPITAL OF THE WORLD'
"I first hired (Kimble) to run the kitchen at P's Pizza House," Sitzmann, owner of Le Mars' popular P's, explained. "I knew right away he was someone with a bright future."
Unfortunately, Kimble also had a bad case of wanderlust.
After a year-and-a-half at P's, Kimble took a job at a Little Rock, Arkansas, craft brewery and taproom.
"Living in Arkansas, I discovered I had a passion for barbeque and Southern culture," he said. "It really hit home for me."
Before too long, Kimble's former boss reached out to him.
"I'm always looking for opportunities to expand Le Mars' dining climate," Sitzmann said. "I knew the idea of a downtown barbeque restaurant would be a great alternative to fast-food fare."
Kimble agreed, quickly signed on a partner in Iowa Barbeque Company and business has been smoking since the doors opened in mid-July.
MARRIED COUPLE EARNING THEIR STRIPES IN PUB GRUB
When Sergeant Bluff's former Warrior Bar & Grill went up for sale, Sandra and Gary Walker jumped at the chance of owning their own business.
"We wanted a fun place where you could watch a football game on a big screen TV but we also wanted a place that was nice enough for the entire family to enjoy," Sandra, a longtime food industry worker, said. "Sgt. Brew happens to be both."
For Gary, a former Sioux City Foundry machine shop supervisor, opening the sports pub in October represented a complete change-of-pace.
"Yeah, it's a change," he said. "It was a good change."
CLASSIC BARBEQUE WITH A MIDWESTERN TWIST
From meats to sides, Iowa Barbeque Company's Kimble believes in keeping things local and organic.
"Everything tastes better that way," he maintained.
Kimble said brisket is done in a classic Texas style while ribs are more in the mode of Kansas City or St. Louis style of 'que.
"We're looking to bring all the best styles of barbeque together while bringing a few Midwestern touches," he said.
Sitzmann nodded his head in agreement.
"We want to keep our menu pretty limited to classic barbeque," he said. "What can be more simple than a meat plus three sides?'
Especially when the sides include such made-from-scratch staples as baked beans, coleslaw and mac and cheese.
"From our sauces to our sides to our sausage, everything is made in-house," Sitzmann said. "This is what separates us from chain operations."
BURGERS AND PIZZAS AND MUCH MORE
Top pick at Sgt. Brew is its pizza, which includes All Meat, Buffalo chicken, Alfredo, Bacon Cheeseburger, Veggies and the Combination, which has a bit of everything.
Sandra Walker said the sports bar's most popular burger is its Brew Burger, which consists of an 8-ounce Angus patty, cheddar cheese, pickles, a special garlic spread served on a Brioche roll.
Gary Walker said it is quality ingredients that sets the Brew Burger apart.
"Some sports bars won't use Angus on their burgers or serve it on a Brioche bun," he explained. "You can truly taste the difference."
For diners desiring something beyond pizza and burgers, Sgt. Brew offers such items as a Reuben, a French Dip sandwich and, even, a Devil Dog (an all-beef hot dog, served with loosemeat and green chili).
"That's the fun part of owning a restaurant," Sandra Walker said. "You can put whatever you want on the menu."