A new barbecue joint opened its doors in Union, Kentucky, and its loaded menu is worthy of the 20-minute drive from downtown. The restaurant, Sugarfire Smokehouse, is known for its brisket, pork, and ribs. But you can find a little bit of everything on the menu—from jalapeno-cheddar sausages to burgers and smoked fried artichokes to pie-blended milkshakes.
“St. Louis didn’t really have its own style, like how Nashville is known for dry ribs,” Chef Mike Johnson says. “So I just picked out whatever I liked best from my travels. The brisket is Texas style, the ribs are Memphis–style baby backs, and the pork is Kansas City style.”
Johnson says the most popular menu item is The Big Muddy, a sandwich piled high with brisket, smoked sausage, horseradishsauce, BBQ sauce, lettuce, and pickles. The smoked turkey is also frequently ordered.
“There’s healthy options, too, if you want to do a Keto diet or something,” Johnson says. “We have people come every day who get turkey and green beans.”
Despite the mass of meat-based specialties on the menu, vegetarians and pescetarians aren’t forgotten. Sugarfire has three smoked salmon dishes, fresh salads, and a double-decker smoked portabella sandwich topped with balsamic onions.
Sugarfire Smokehouse was created by Johnson in 2011, who later joined Kentucky native Jim Schwartz to open the first tri-state location on April 1. The restaurant seats 60 on the inside, with additional patio seating outside.
In the beginning of his career, Johnson worked in fine dining under chefs Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Trotter. But in 2010, after he sold all of his fine dining restaurants, Johnson took the barbecue route and opened 13 Sugarfire locations, which have appeared in several world-wide food competitions. He says he sees no end in sight.
“People always ask me if I think barbecue is going to go out of style,” Johnson says, sporting an FC Cincinnati shirt and matching Sugarfire hat. “And I’m like ‘cavemen barbecued. It’s not going to happen.’”
Sugarfire is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sugarfire Smokehouse, 9039 US 42, Union, KY, (859) 384-4100