It's five of the happiest words in the English language: "We're opening a new restaurant," said Jordan Smith, chef/owner of Black Sheep Pizza (three Twin Cities locations, blacksheeppizza.com).
Technically, he's reviving an old one, his StormKing Barbecue. The short-lived passion project opened in 2017 and ran for about a year at 26th and Nicollet in south Minneapolis, adjacent to Black Sheep's Eat Street location.
"I did not want to close that restaurant," said Smith. "We never lost money, we just didn't make any money."
For this second foray into barbecue, Smith is taking on a partner: Rapids Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Minn. Their collaboration will be called StormKing Brewpub and Barbecue, and it's going into the former ONE Fermentary & Taproom (618 N. 5th St., Mpls.) in the North Loop, not far from Smith's original Black Sheep Pizza.
"Beer and barbecue, it's such a great combination," he said. "And their beers are spectacular."
The original StormKing grew out of Smith's obsession with Texas barbecue, developed over countless eating trips he made through the Lone Star State.
For this next-generation StormKing, he's expanding upon its predecessor's somewhat limited menu. Sandwiches, for example. At StormKing 1.0, customers asked for them, but Smith, in purist mode, wasn't serving them.
"I want this to be a lot more fun," he said. "This is going to be less like barbecue church. What I love about the pizza business is that you're constantly saying 'Yes' to people. And I was saying 'No' to people, and that goes against what I like to do."
The sandwich roster will include brisket ("Of course," said Smith), along with pulled pork shoulder topped with coleslaw and shoestring onions, a "nice, big, sliced-to-order smoked turkey sandwich" and a pulled squash version, "To take care of our vegan friends," he said.
Other items will include smoked chicken wings, "old-school" nachos and barbecue standards such as brisket and ribs.
"And we'll have a deep fryer, so we can do whatever the heck we want," said Smith. "I'm excited to bring back the barbecue."
Shea Design of Minneapolis has been charged with remaking the space, which will seat 160 indoors and another 60 on the patio. Diners will order at the counter, and food will be delivered to tables.
The bar will feature 10 to 12 house-brewed beers on tap, with an emphasis on lagers.
"Their lagers are super-interesting," said Smith. "People are looking to expand their beer palate, they're getting off this hop high that we've been on for the last dozen years."
Also at the bar, Smith will also concentrate on two firsts for his business: draft wines and draft cocktails.
"Developing draft cocktails is such a science project," he said with a laugh. "What's great about them is they're quick, and they're consistent. "You make the recipe, and they're correct, every time."
A spring opening is planned.
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib