June 23, 2004
Section: ZONE WEST - HENDRICKS CO A.M.
Edition: FINAL EDITION
A firm with meat on its bones
Brothers, partner are spreading their Texas-style barbecue to several locations.
BRUCE C. SMITH BRUCE.SMITH@INDYSTAR.COM
Barbecue brothers Richard and David Allen are really starting to cook.
They're taking a small restaurant Richard started in Noblesville and, with the help of partner Michael DeWeese, starting to franchise their dry rub, Texas-style concept for Dick's Bodacious Bar-B-Q.
The restaurateurs have come a long way since Richard began a little over three years ago with a wood-burning slow cooker pulled behind a truck and a part-time catering business.In addition to Dick's eateries opened in the past year in Avon, Broad Ripple, Noblesville and at 96th Street and Gray Road on the Indianapolis Northeastside, a fifth restaurant will open this month in Fishers. It will be in the Fishers Gateway Shops at 116th Street and I-69, a restaurant to be owned by Paul Vondersaar, who has the franchise rights for Hamilton and northern Marion counties.
The Fishers location is to be followed in coming months by franchised restaurants in Greenwood, Muncie, Oaklandon, Plainfield and Southport.
Several factors led to their early success in the risky food and beverage industry.Firstly, the Allens said their roots are in real Texas cooking. Secondly, they have fun and stay community-minded. Thirdly, they are attracting franchisees with a business plan that is almost as lean as their slow-smoked meats.
DeWeese brings restaurant and franchising experience to the team, plus an extensive knowledge of Indiana-brewed beers that are popular accompaniments to Dick's barbecue. Among them are Upland, brewed in Bloomington; Three Floyds from Munster; and Mad Anthony, based in Fort Wayne, which makes an ale for Dick's.
The decor and the food are not fancy. Think of it as modern industrial meeting the old wild West. Quarter- and half-pound piles of meat and sandwiches are served in paper boats with plastic forks. Rolls of paper towels for napkins are on the tables."
This is authentic. It isn't puffy," Richard said to explain the concept."
When we were growing up in Mesquite, Texas," Richard said, "I was the son who helped Mom in the kitchen, and Dave helped Dad. So, I learned to cook, and he became Mr. Fix-it."
David, 34, also worked as a cowboy and at other jobs until he answered his brother's call to move from Texas to Hamilton County to help with the new company. He is president and chief executive.
Richard, 33, married and moved to his bride's hometown of Noblesville. He worked in sales and began looking for a part-time job to help support their growing family of three youngsters.
In 2000, he started with a wood-burning slow cooker that he parked outdoors near a frozen custard stand in Noblesville.
He began experimenting with combinations of spices in the dry rubs that he put on the beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, turkey, sausage and hot links. He smoked the meats overnight about four hours over hickory chips and logs to make them tender and build the flavors.
By November the next year, "winter was coming, and we were looking to open a place inside," he said. The result was a small eatery with 28 seats he dubbed Dick's Bodacious Bar-B-Q in the Noblesville Square shopping center."
We knew we were on to something when we opened the first day and had a line out the front door," Richard said. "People told us later it was a pretty inexpensive way to find a marketing strategy."
It began the process of teaching Hoosiers about a new style of barbecue in this region, one that is lean and dry compared to the common Midwestern style slathered in sweet, red tomato sauces.
"Tastes in barbecue seem to be rather territorial. There's a North Carolina style and a Midwestern style and then there's Texas style," said David W. Roberts, franchise owner of the Broad Ripple Dick's Bodacious Bar-B-Q.
"We serve a dry rub style with the (hot and mild) sauces on the side. It is different and unique."
He said he feels the meat tastes good on its own, but says Dick's has done a good job of coming up with a secret blend of spices in the dry rub applied during cooking and in sauces made for the restaurants.
Roberts and some of the other franchise operators, managers and employees joining the company worked with DeWeese in his Buffalo Wild Wings franchises in the metro area.
"Dick's is a lot of fun because we interact directly with the customers and make the food in front of them," Roberts said.
Fun is a big part of Bodacious Bar-B-Q.
The brothers and DeWeese cut up and poke fun at each other in their casual moments, like over a lunch of turkey and beef last week at the Noblesville Dick's location.
Diners are surrounded by many pictures on the walls from the Allens' Texas past, including autographed photos of rodeo stars they've known.
Another prominent picture shows the "world's biggest barbecue sandwich" tipping the scales at 72 pounds, 4 ounces. Another photo shows the legendary rodeo bull named Bodacious.
"No, we didn't name the restaurant for the bull," Richard said.
"It is just a word you hear a lot in Texas, meaning something that is special and stands for quality and taking pride."
Call Star reporter Bruce C. Smith at (317) 444-2605.
Copyright (c) The Indianapolis Star. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.