Beef Butter BBQ is a smoky smash hit on Madison’s north side
Patrick Riha finds a path to a slow-smoked success
The backstory: Madison’s buzzed-about new brick-and-mortar barbecue restaurant has a history longer than the three months it’s been open on the north side. The Beef Butter BBQ food cart that vended on the outskirts of town now has a permanent address at 3001 N. Sherman Ave. All it took was one trip to Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, to inspire Patrick Riha to learn everything he could about barbecue. “I thought, ‘Could I bring something like this back to Wisconsin?'” says Riha. To find out, the marketing professional with no prior food experience took to the streets in spring 2017 with a 24-foot food truck featuring a commercial kitchen and full-sized smoker. Today, Riha’s slow-smoked barbecue venture is serving the same drool-worthy meals out of the food truck for events that it does in his restaurant (which means he doesn’t have to smoke meat outdoors in the dead of winter anymore).
The vibe: The important part about the premises is actually behind the counter and out of sight. A Myron Mixon smoker that’s a twin to the one on the food cart has a fire pit in the bottom that heats up a giant rotisserie where huge cuts of meat spin for an average of 12 hours. The savory scent hits you right when you walk in the restaurant. Riha opened his doors only a few days after getting the keys following a total renovation. You wouldn’t know by the looks of the charming interior that a few of Riha’s friends helped him decorate the space in a single night.
The menu: Expect the classics – brisket, chicken, ribs and pulled pork – all smoked, juicy, open-grained and fork-tender. Riha hasn’t been in the barbecue business for long, but he certainly is developing the chops of a seasoned pit master. And in true fashion, Riha’s sides are traditional but just as show-stopping, including four-hour smoked apple pie baked beans, white cheddar mac and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw and honey butter kettle chips.
The must-try: Riha was sourcing his jalapeño cheddar sausages from Jim’s Meat Market when the Madison butcher shop was still open. After it closed, Riha hired John Leman from Jim’s and put in a state-of-the-art pneumatic sausage stuffer. Now the smoked jalapeño cheddar sausages – these juicy slices have just the right amount of spice – live on.
The bottom line: Riha’s passion for making barbecue is evident in all the details of his business – sauces named after his daughters, friendly staff, a warm atmosphere and seriously good barbecue worthy of a line out the door.
3001 N. Sherman Ave., 640-5000
Andrea Behling is managing editor at Madison Magazine.
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