Sedalia has a new barbecue restaurant in town after KC Baby Back Ribs opened last month on the east side of town serving barbecue in “true Kansas City tradition.”
Barbecue was not a business that owner Jim White expected to find himself in. He previously worked as an athletic director for the Kansas City School District and then went on to get his masters with the intention of teaching at the college level.
While waiting to find out where he was going to teach White helped his dad and a family friend obtain billboards for their businesses. White was going to businesses to talk about renting billboards when he walked into Paula Lewis’s newly opened barbecue restaurant.
“I walk in there and it’s a little classic hole in the wall place and there’s a lady there, which was Paula…” he said.
“She was there, and she was just starting it out by herself and I tried to get her a billboard. The billboard didn't work out, but she was just really busy and doing it all herself…She asked me if I could help and I said yeah. She was the one who taught me how to smoke meat.”
White and Lewis started out as partners, but White recently bought Lewis out, although he says Lewis is still the boss.
White and Lewis worked on their Oak Grove location for about four years, and after its success decided to expand.
“I chose to come here because I really, really enjoyed this growing up and I love the State Fair,” said White, who is originally from Independence. “I’m one of the youngest of 10 kids and you come down there with your family and it’s synonymous with summer. You come and you just have a great time. It’s a multifarious destination and all you have is great food great fun…I just have always loved this here…”
He said a friend suggested opening a business in Sedalia and after looking at statistics and the city’s demographics, he decided “there’s no better place in the county to start a business.”
The location White bought in east Sedalia was originally for freezer space, smoking more meat for the Oak Grove location and shipping barbecue. He eventually wanted to open a restaurant but in a different location. White said opening at their current location, 1403 E. Broadway Blvd., was an “impromptu thing.”
“About three and a half weeks ago I was just sitting here and I was like, ‘You know what? I love Sedalia.’ I said, ‘I’m going to open this thing up here,’” White said.
White and Lewis originally did a soft opening for the restaurant by just putting a few signs outside. White said a few people came in and the number kept growing, largely due to people posting about it on social media. White said he is thankful for everyone’s responses and honest opinions.
“I just want your honest opinion. What I like about Sedalia, because I want to get better, is they want you to show them,” White said. “Put it before them and they'll make their decision and there’s something truthful about that. It makes you better. Then if you listen to your customers they’ll come back and that’s the theory that Paula and I started with.”
KC Baby Back Ribs serves barbecue in “true Kansas City tradition,” meaning the staff prepares the food as it has been done in the Midwest for more than 100 years. White said simplicity is the keyword in their operation.
“I think if you try too complicated with barbecue, then you can miss some steps and you let the meat be the star of the show,” he said. “You control the temperature, you control the timing, and you put all those things together and keep it simple, then the flavor comes out.”