Ulledahl had been running errands for the restaurant in Kansas City, when his wife called to tell him that their brand new barbecue spot, Chops BBQ & Catering, located in downtown Smithville, was going up in flames from a fire that started with his smoker parked out back.
The building took 4 months to clean, gut, rewire, and clean again, and Chops BBQ & Catering reopened the week of Christmas, where they found the community there to welcome them back with open arms.
“We were devastated after the fire, our ribbon cutting ceremony with the city was scheduled for the very next day, but we worked hard to get it reopened, and we were so glad to find the community there for us, and ready to eat,” says Ulledahl.
Barbecue is a second career for Ulledahl, who spent 15 years as a Kansas City police officer. He started by competing on the barbecue circuit as part of the “Chop Quey” team, and he later went on to invent the Chops Power Injector System, a barbecue tool for sale on Amazon today, that quickly and evenly injects marinade into your meat for smoking or grilling.
Given the nickname “Pork Chop” by his competitive barbecue friends, Ulledahl eventually shortened it to just “Chop,” which is what he has built his barbecue career around.
He and his wife had not planned to open a barbecue restaurant, but when they stumbled across this picture perfect location across from the main square in downtown Smithville, and just down the street from Justus Drugstore, they decided it was the right time to open Chops BBQ & Catering.
Starting a restaurant this small, they reasoned, would allow them to afford the highest quality meats, making just enough to sell out each day. They have a small staff, but this is a family run operation, where he works in the back and his wife works the front.
At Chops, they smoke brisket, burnt ends, KC-style pork ribs, pulled pork, sausage and turkey everyday to keep quality and demand, high. Having the restaurant allows him to hone his barbecue skills not only for his injector demonstrations but also to prepare him for competitions, which he hopes to jump back into this year once the restaurant is fully staffed this summer.
Brisket is a popular item for any barbecue restaurant in Kansas City, but at Chops, Ulledahl cuts his nice and thick, to show the tenderness and quality of his meat.
“Some places cut their brisket thin, and smother it in sauce to disguise the meat being too dry and not tender enough, but with my thick slices you can’t hide that, and it sets us apart,” says Ulledahl.
His pork ribs are another customer favorite, as he makes them what he refers to as “Kansas City-style,” instead of “St. Louis-style.” To Ulledahl, that means trimming a little less, leaving more meat on the bone and using a full spare rib.
He makes his own sides from competitions recipes he has used in the past, like his popular bacon cheesy potatoes and baked beans. He also offers coleslaw, seasoned fries, and sweet potato waffle fries.
“To make ourselves a barbecue destination in Smithville, we have to be doing everything right in terms of our barbecue and service,” he says. “We are doing hand-crafted, low and slow barbecue up here, and if we are doing it right, people will come.”
Chops BBQ & Catering is open Tuesday-Thursday 11 am – 8 pm, Friday & Saturday 11 am – 9 pm and Sunday from 12 noon -6 pm. They are closed on Monday.
Chops BBQ & Catering, 109 E. Main Street, Smithville, Missouri, 816.866.4337,www.facebook.com/eatatchops