Dan and Christine Hager’s barbecue joint is closed Mondays, but that didn’t stop a handful of hopeful passersby from knocking on the door after seeing the owner’s truck parked outside.
They’re used to it.
During the months leading up to D’s Smokin BBQ and Taphouse’s November opening date, people stopped by “nonstop,” Dan Hager said, to check on the restaurant’s progress or ask if they could help with the renovations.
“We probably met half the town over the summer,” he said. “Once the word was out that we were coming, it spread like wildfire.”
For the small, but busy stretch of shops and restaurants on Cody Road in LeClaire, a new restaurant opening was the “the talk of the town.”
The talk continued when D’s Smokin BBQ unveiled its savvy self-pour tap system.
Be your own bartender
Powered by PourMy Beer, a Chicago-based company, the tap system is equipped with touch screens allowing patrons to choose between 20 Iowa craft brews and pour their own drink.
“People love it because it puts them in charge,” Dan said. “You can be your own bartender.”
No other eateries in the Quad-City area have yet tapped into the self-pour beer market, though BeerBurger in North Liberty, Iowa, has a similar self-pour system with 36 taps.
“That’s why I had to have it,” Dan said. “No one else is doing it around here.”
When customers arrive, they are handed a card that keeps track of beer poured and the total cost. Beers cost between 32 cents to 48 cents per ounce.
Christine describes the beer wall as an “adult playground.”
“It’s a big draw,” she said. “It’s neat when you get a new customer and you tell them about it and you see the look on their face. They’re excited.”
Food truck no more
For Dan and Christine, opening a restaurant was five years in the making.
After Christine gifted her husband an electric smoker for Christmas, they launched a mobile barbecue business that included catering events and weddings and selling food at county fairs. As business picked up, they quit their full-time jobs and talked about upgrading from the food truck lifestyle.
“With the food truck, there’s a lot of work that goes into setting up,” Dan said. “And you can only do it seasonally. In the winter, the only work I want to do is cooking.”
They considered opening a storefront in their hometown of Fulton, Illinois, or Albany, Illinois, where they have lived for several years.
“We knew what our sales were and what our followers were saying about the food, so we were ready,” Dan said. “But we really took our time looking.”
They soon landed on an 800 square-foot space on Cody Road in LeClaire, which is home to steady foot traffic and, at the time, was not home to a barbecue restaurant.
“There’s so much here, but there was no other barbecue place in town,” he said. “That was important to us.”
After being open for two months, they are already thinking bigger.
Currently, the restaurant has a capacity of 38 diners. Hager hopes to complete a four season room in the back of the building by the end of February that would add about 24 seats. He also is working on a large outdoor patio that will be outfitted with its own bar and kitchen for the summertime.
On the menu
Dan's recipes are not "just the same old same old."
He said the brisket, pork and ribs are smoked with fruit wood rather than a traditional hickory flavor.
“Everybody has their own flavor, whether it’s Kansas City or South Carolina or Texas or Missouri,” he said. “Here, it’s my own version.”
The menu features fried pretzel bites, brisket nachos, burgers, paninis, sandwiches, pork belly burnt ends and baby back ribs and a barbecue parfait that includes a stack of beans, pulled pork, brisket and garlic mashed potatoes served in a mason jar. A breakfast menu debuted last week that will be served on Saturdays and Sundays.
Also on the menu, you’ll find a challenge that calls up memories of the former TV show, “Man v. Food.” You have 45 minutes to eat the entire “Pantwrecker,” a triple-decker burger with toppings held together by five pieces of jalapeno bread.
Anyone who finishes the mountain of food will have their photo displayed on the restaurant's wall of fame.
So far, the wall of fame is empty.