KC style with pitmaster's secret sauce, rock 'n roll

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
Kyle Haselhorst, left, and Andi Johnson, right, were the first customers of the day after Bricks Rockin’ BBQ opened its doors Tuesday for lunch.
Bricks Rockin’ BBQ co-owner David Proffitt, right, with general manager Gari Herdt, and front of the house manager Olivia Ortega, left, resolve a question at the cash register before opening the 11th Street restaurant on Tuesday.
The 1920s storefront at 110 W. 11th was remodeled to become Bricks Rockin’ BBQ after sitting idle for more than a year with the closing of Das Essen Hutte.

Hays residents Kyle Haselhorst and Andi Johnson were the first customers in the door Tuesday when Bricks Rockin’ BBQ opened for lunch.

It was the first time for both of them at the new restaurant on 11th Street, which opened Jan. 2.

“I’m having The Drummer,” said Haselhorst, who looked over the menu. He chose the smoked large sausage topped with pulled pork on a house bun, which includes a side, for $9.99.

“I’m going to probably try the turkey and the pulled pork,” said Johnson, choosing The Lead Singer, a choice of two meats served in a sandwich, and a side, for $9.99.

They came on Tuesday because Haselhorst likes barbecue and Johnson likes to try new foods. Both agreed that Bricks Rockin’ BBQ on Tuesday would satisfy their desire to “try something new.”

The new eatery at 110 W. 11th is the fifth in Hays for the brothers David and Jacob Proffitt, and their fourth one downtown on the bricks.

“We’re still trying to get in the groove, because this is only our third Tuesday,” said David Proffitt at the restaurant as staff prepared to open. “We’ve been really busy, especially on the weekends. And we’re going to be launching our full catering shortly.”

Expect delivery too, as each new service is phased in.

“We’ll keep trying different things, and have specials,” Proffitt said. “Our goal is to be the best barbecue place in the best barbecue state.”

The menu itself is rock ‘n roll inspired.

“We gave fun names to all the different dishes and stuff, but it is traditional pit barbecue, with lots and lots of sides," he said. "We have everything from burnt ends and brisket, to turkey and pulled pork, and chicken, sausage, we have a great hot link.”

Previously the German food restaurant Das Essen Hutte, the historic retail space was already outfitted with a commercial kitchen when the Proffitts took interest. The brothers redid the interior with the rock ‘n roll theme, while keeping as much of the 1920s architectural elements as possible, then installed a smoker with the capacity for 160 racks of ribs, or about 400 pounds of meat.

“We seasoned and smoked on it for about 45 days before we opened,” said Proffitt.  “We just wanted to make sure everything was perfect. With meat, it’s expensive, so you want to make sure you have it right when you’re serving it. Jacob became quite a pit master. He loved it.”

Employee Kyle Cruz works the pit now.

Key to the Bricks Rockin’ BBQ magic, though, is pitmaster Patsy Denault.

The Proffitt’s, Russell natives, met her through their sister. Denault previously worked at the revered Meridy’s for about 20 years, and then 10 years doing barbecue, both in Russell.

“She brought us some of her sauce and we tried it, and got everything put together so we could do this venture together,” David said. “She’s kind of a local Russell legend.”

Denault’s sauce is, of course, a secret recipe.

“It’s fantastic,” Proffitt said. “The original is sweet, and then the spicy is pretty spicy. It’s her secret blend. She makes it and we serve it.”

The latest restaurant expands on the Proffitt's pairing of rock music with food. This one fast forwards a few decades from the popular 1950s tunes played at Tiger Burgers, 700 Main St., to 1980s rock at Bricks Rockin’ BBQ.

With the help of their brother Charles Proffitt, a studio guitarist in Denver, the Proffitts outfitted the Bricks Rockin’ BBQ with rock ‘n roll décor, from album covers and posters to cymbals, guitars and a jukebox. They collected 1980s hair band paraphernalia from different auctions, including autographs from ZZ Top, Eddie Van Halen and other musicians.

Bricks Rockin’ BBQ is the second new barbecue restaurant downtown. Owner and chef of The Press, Philip Kuhn, opened Blue Smoke Barbecue, 804 Main, in December. Proffitt says there’s room for both.

“I think it’s great, and you know barbecue is definitely a style,” said Proffitt. “I’m sure his spin on barbecue is going to be amazing, because he’s done well before. We’re very traditional, we’re not trying to reinvent it, we’re not talented enough to. We’re just doing the traditional pit barbecue that we grew up with, and always loved with Kansas and Texas.”

Bricks Rockin’ BBQ is the Kansas City style, he said, even though he owns a business and a home in the Dallas area.

“Texas definitely has great barbecue, and so does Memphis and the Carolinas,” he said. “But I think Kansas City is king for barbecue.”

Traditionally, Texas is more of a mesquite dry rub, he said.

“You don’t have a lot of really spectacular sauces,” said Proffitt. “Kansas City is really known for sauces, and making great rubs, but a relatively sweeter tradition, and then they use a lot of barbecue sauces.”

The meat preference varies too, he said. St. Louis region leans more toward pork, while Texas focuses on beef, and Kansas City is a mix of pork and beef. 

“If you grew up in the Midwest, the barbecue that most people associate with is the ‘sauce is the boss’ and most of it is Kansas City,” he said.

There are lots of different ways to barbecue. Unlike grilling, where tender cuts are quickly seared, with barbecue the general idea is low heat, slow cooking, 12-15 hours, he said, because the cuts are tougher.

 “Everybody’s got that down,” he said. “So it really comes down to different rubs, and if you want to kick it up, the different sauces.”

Kansas City style combines great pork and beef, great sauce and a great rub, he said, giving the best of everything.

“We have our own dry rub we use and we don’t put sauce on anything other than burnt ends,” he said. “Other than that the sauce is always on the side and people put it on themselves.”

The Proffitts are pleased with the reception to the new restaurant.

“It’s been really great,” he said. “The feedback’s been really good ... it brings people downtown to realize there are a dozen great restaurants down here, and like we’ve always said, downtown is for Hays. We want to get people downtown and do things for the people of Hays to enjoy.”

David, 48 and Jacob, 43, work as a team on their ventures, said David. And there will be more to come. Next up, a candy and donut shop.

"Jacob is all ready for the next idea,” Proffitt said. “He’s non-stop. We both try to come up with ideas and execute, but he’s a real visionary when it comes to different ideas for places. He has the ability to look at a dead space and see the whole layout before we even start. It’s really amazing."