Kiwan Guyton looks as tired as he says he is, standing with his wide shoulders slumped and his eyes downcast. It’s 1 p.m. on an off-day at his eatery, and he’s between shifts as an overnight deputy for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
Once he starts talking about barbecue and Mr. BBQ’s Rib Shack in Smithton, though, his face lights up and his hands wave in the air to express the grand size of his love for food.
How does he manage a full-time job, a catering business and his eatery?
“I’m gonna give it to you in one word — crazy,” Guyton said on an early Monday afternoon at Mr. BBQ’s Rib Shack, at 102 N. Main St. in Smithton. “Or passion. This food is my passion.”
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Guyton, 41, opened Mr. BBQ’s in Smithton in mid-April, and is planning a second location in New Athens. He expects Mr. BBQ on the River to open in time for spring’s boating season.
Mr. BBQ’s offers barbecue plates, sandwiches and nachos. On Fridays, he adds cod and catfish fillets to the mix. On Sundays, he also has fried chicken. Sides include coleslaw and what Kiwan calls “the best” beer-battered onion rings around.
Another barbecue delicacy Mr. BBQ’s serves is snoot.
“Put yourself in mind of a thick piece of bacon,” Kiwan said. The rib shack smokes between 150 and 200 pounds of snoots a week to dip into sauce and serve in a sandwich.
“It’s not your prim and proper, use a knife and fork,” kind of meal, Kiwan said.
He started cooking young, helping his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. He was 15 and working at the Antique House as part of a co-op program through Belleville West when the barbecue bug really bit.
“These guys were playing pinochle, and they said, ‘Hey, Kiwan, we want something different.’ And I said, ‘How about barbecue?’”
He’s come up with a sauce that is a winner. It’s a sweet and spicy blend laced with crushed peppers. The sauce is now served at four other restaurants in the metro-east.
He said the owner of TR’s Place in Belleville got a taste of his sauce at a Big Daddy’s wingfest. She had to have it at her restaurant. Then, the West End Bar & Restaurant in Millstadt got a taste and quickly followed. His sauce is now also at the Corner Chill and Grill in Belleville as well as Big Daddy’s in Belleville.
“People told me it’s so addicting,” he said. The sauce sticks to everything, making it great for his beloved wings. He also has created a fiery garlic sauce.
Despite his name, Mr. BBQ’s favorite food is wings, and he eats pizza nearly every day.
“I don’t eat too much barbecue myself; I’ve been doing it since I was 15,” he said.
Kiwan has been a police officer for 22 years, with 20 of those “on the streets” with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department. He has at least another 10 years on the job before considering retirement. Mr. BBQ’s businesses are all part of the plan.
“If I’m sitting down, I’m not making money,” he said. “If I’m sitting down, I’m not taking care of my family. If I’m sitting down, I’m not taking care of my staff.”
Mr. BBQ’s Rib Shack
Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 4 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 7 p.m. Sundays
Where: 102 N. Main Street, Smithton
Information or place orders: 618-235-0747. Carryout, with eat-in welcome next door at Schmitty’s Bar, where there are tables and chairs.
On the menu: Sandwiches start at $4 for a hot dog up to $7.50 for a pulled pork or pulled chicken sandwich with one side. Pulled pork or chicken nachos with cheese, jalapenos, meat, and barbecue sauce is $9.50. A pork steak plate runs $7. A full slab of ribs and two sides costs $25.50.
Catering: Mr. BBQ also offers catering services. Call 618-406-9231 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Kiwan says of the catering menu, “If you don’t see it, talk to me. I can make it.”