A new barbecue restaurant opened in Waterloo this week.
There was a line out the door at Wicked Smoke Bar-B-Que on Tuesday morning, said Chrissy Sperduto, who manages the restaurant with her boyfriend, Lance Kingston. They had sold out by 7:30 p.m., half an hour before closing time. The next day, they sold out at 6 p.m.
Wicked Smoke, the result of a four-year conversation, started with backyard smoking in Memphis, Tennesse where the couple used to live. Kingston was working for the railroad, and Sperduto was a homemaker.
“Then, the next thing you know ... we were getting orders from the police officers in Memphis,” Sperduto said.
The couple has eaten at all the Memphis barbecue restaurants. Their favorite, however, called Memphis Barbecue Co., is actually right across the border in Mississippi. Their enviable market research taught them a lot about what they wanted their own barbecue joint to be.
A lot of restaurants oversmoke, Sperduto said, but theirs strives for a balance of smoke, meat, seasoning and heat.
After the meat is prepared the night before, Kingston, the pitmaster, arrives at the restaurant around 2 a.m. to put it in the smoker. They have two — one that can fit a 250-pound hog and a second one that can fit two. The smokers, with “military grade” insulation, keep the temperature at 325 degrees, Sperduto said.
Ribs smoke for three to four hours, butts for five and chicken for one to one-and-a-half, Sperduto said. They also smoke brisket.
At first, the couple thought about ordering the meat from a farmer, but they thought the demand would be too high. All meats, which arrive fresh daily, are dry-rubbed and come without sauces.
Some barbecue places take a “set it and forget it” attitude toward smoking — the meat goes in, and propane keeps the fire on — but Wicked Smoke is wood-smoke only. Kingston, working throughout the night, adds more hickory and cherry wood every 45 minutes.
Wicked Smoke is a family-run restaurant, though other employees have more regular hours. Sperduto’s two daughters work there, as well as Kingston’s 16-year-old daughter.
It also tries to make the menu accommodating for families, too. Although it’s missing hamburgers, pizza and chicken tenders, it does offer hot dogs.
A claw machine along the wall also offers a playful chance to take home a stuffed toy pig, though it has a wider audience than Sperduto thought it would.
The machine, leftover from a Chinese-food restaurant that used to occupy the building, almost didn’t made it until its owner convinced Sperduto to take it.
“I have one condition,” she told him. “I want it filled with just pigs and little balls, and that’s all I want.”
The pigs, which will soon be wearing Wicked Smoke bracelets, have been a hit, and not just with kids.
“My father, particularly,” Sperduto said.