Biz Beat

One downtown Modesto barbecue joint closes, but two others open in food truck court

Check out the newest barbecue joint in Modesto Grub Hubs

Fire and Desire BBQ opened a new trailer in the Modesto Grub Hubs food truck court this week. The barbecue joint in Modesto, CA sells Texas-style smoked meats, sandwiches and sides.
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Fire and Desire BBQ opened a new trailer in the Modesto Grub Hubs food truck court this week. The barbecue joint in Modesto, CA sells Texas-style smoked meats, sandwiches and sides.

Apparently, when one Modesto barbecue spot closes its doors, two more open theirs.

At least that’s what’s happening this summer as the BBQ fortunes of downtown restaurants have shifted. Late last month, The Burnt End, a low-and-slow smoked barbecue joint on Ninth Street, closed abruptly after less than a year in business.

The restaurant from chef and owner Heather Love opened to much interest last September just off the corner of I and Ninth streets. But its debut got off to a rocky start with inconsistent hours and frequent food shortages. Then the restaurant had to close down for equipment repair for much of January.

While the barbecue was unmistakably good, the service and supply problems made the restaurant a hit-and-miss dining choice. At the end of July, a sign was posted on its door that simply said the restaurant was permanently closed.

A handful of ex-employees have reached out to me since, concerned about alleged unpaid back wages. Multiple phone calls and messages to Love were not returned.

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Liv DeJong returns to her table with her order on Thursday August 22, 2019 at Fire and Desire BBQ located in Grub Hubs in downtown Modesto, Calif. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

But downtown Modesto barbecue lovers need not panic. Two new barbecue spots have opened inside Modesto Grub Hubs, the new food truck court that opened at the corner of Ninth and G streets earlier this year.

Grub Hubs owner Gregory Reed opened his own spot, Fire and Desire BBQ, on Thursday in a shipping container. It is the only restaurant not on wheels in the food court, and also the only spot you will be able to grab a pint thanks to its dedicated outdoor beer garden. The 1,400-square-foot fenced-in patio can fit about 120 with shaded seating.

Reed and his business partner and pitmaster Brian Kiser wanted to bring authentic Texas-style barbecue like the latter grew up with in the Lone Star state. Kiser also brought his childhood friend and chef Marc Byrd with him to the new endeavor, and together they’ve put together a menu cooked in a giant barrel smoker behind the trailer that can hold 500 pounds of meat.

You’ll find smoked brisket, baby back ribs, spare ribs, pulled pork, turkey breast, chicken quarters, chopped beef and sausage (ranging from $3 per sausage to $7 -$12.50 per half pound for the other meats) all smoked on oak from Reed’s ranch. They’re also available in sandwich form from $10-$15 with a small side. Sides include beans, coleslaw and potato salad. Also not to be missed are the bacon-wrapped smoked jalapeno poppers.

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Chef Marc Byrd works the grill on Thursday August 22, 2019 at Fire and Desire BBQ located in Grub Hubs in downtown Modesto, Calif. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

Next week, Fire and Desire should start serving beer on draft, and then four large-screen televisions will be installed. On opening day, the trailer sold out of ribs, pulled pork and chicken. The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to sell out Wednesday to Sunday (and open Mondays during football season). For more on Fire and Desire BBQ, call 209-576-5645.

A few trailers down from Fire and Desire is the Rub BBQ and Grilling food trailer. The Turlock-based eatery from owner and grillmaster O.J. McCulley has been in Grub Hubs for about three months. As the name suggests, McCulley’s menu is dry-rub based. But instead of smoking, he charcoal grills all of his meats each morning.

The menu includes tri-tip, pork ribs, chicken quarters and pulled pork. They’re served in plates of single-meat ($10 plus a side), double-meat ($15 plus a side), triple-meat ($23 plus two sides) and quad-meat ($30 plus three sides). Sides include Portuguese beans, potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw and fries. You can also get the tri-tip or chicken in sandwich form for $10 each.

McCulley spent 17 years in the car sales business before deciding to open his own food truck. He said that for the past two decades his friends have encouraged him to open a restaurant because of his special dry-rub mix. For those who like things saucier, he offers Carolina-style vinegar-based or Memphis-style ketchup-based sauces on the side.

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The Rub BBQ and Grilling truck is pictured on Thursday August 22, 2019 in Grub Hubs in downtown Modesto, Calif. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

Rub BBQ and Grilling is at Grub Hubs four to five days a week (closed on Mondays), from about 11 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. depending on the day and supply. McCulley posts his weekly schedule on his Instagram and Facebook pages so customers can know when to find him.

Along with the Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop food trailer, that makes three barbecue joints in Grub Hubs. But McCulley said he doesn’t worry about his competitors, because each has their own niche.

“Competition is healthy and there’s plenty to go around,” he said.

Find out more about Rub BBQ and Grilling at 209-250-9506.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

Modesto’s own Sciabica’s California Olive Oil is celebrating its 83rd year in business with its annual Farm to Fork to Flavor event Friday.

The free farmers market-style event will feature more than 20 local artisan food companies and eateries showing off and selling their wares. The event is also Sciabica’s yearly Warehouse sale with all the brand’s olive oils discounted by case and half case. Other festivities will include food samples, live music and chef demonstrations.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sciabica headquarters at 2150 Yosemite Blvd. Admission is free. For more information, visit SunshineInABottle.com/events.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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