Dusty Ware

Courier file photo

OTTUMWA — When Dusty Ware saw the bracket, he couldn’t believe it.

One year after winning Pulled Pork Madness, the online voting competition put on by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Ottumwa’s Warehouse Barbecue would have to open the 2020 tournament facing the champions of 2018.

“I immediately called up the owner of Moo’s BBQ,” Ware said. “Both us couldn’t believe we had to go up against each other in the first round.”

In the end, the Newton restaurant came out on top in the premiere match-up of the Sweet 16. While Warehouse Barbecue will not defend the title, just being one of 16 restaurants selected out of the 125 restaurants statewide to be nominated is an honor.

“We were pretty lucky to even win it last year,” Ware said. “Moo’s BBQ was in last year too, but we had a lot of support. We’re happy for Moo’s and everyone that’s still in the tournament. It’s a great way to promote some very quality establishments throughout the state.”

Now more than ever, that promotion is key as the world continues to deal with new realities. The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been felt on several businesses, including restaurants like Warehouse Barbecue, after orders by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that all restaurants suspend dine-in service until further notice.

That hasn’t stopped Ware, his father Roger, and the rest of the staff at Warehouse from keeping busy. The Ottumwa restaurant has increased its delivery force and is still offering carry out to make sure those practicing social distancing still have an option for putting food on their tables.

The IPPA is working with Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to share with them the potential issues that pork producers could face. The IDPH has been recommending that all Iowa businesses cross-train, prioritize critical functions and think about where they would pull additional staff, if needed.

Besides delivering food, Warehouse Barbecue is asking patrons that wish to carry out to observe that no more than 10 people, including the restaurant staff, be inside the building at one time. If there are already 10 people inside when you arrive to pick up an order, Ware and his staff ask that you wait to come in until after someone exits the building to pick up your order.

Online orders for Warehouse Barbecue can be made at www.warehousebarbecue.com. Any questions or food orders can all be called into the restaurant at 641-954-8038.

Nearly 1,700 fans nominated Iowa restaurants this year by going to www.iowapork.org. Ware says Warehouse Barbecue will continue to keep their fans updated on the results and encourages everyone to continue participating by voting on the eight remaining establishments throughout Iowa.

Online voting deadlines will be March 30 to determine the Final Four and April 2 to determine the 2020 Pulled Pork Madness champion. The winner will be announced on April 3.

“This campaign is a fun way to promote businesses around the state, including restaurants, bars and food trucks who serve up delicious pulled pork sandwiches,” said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director. “We love the interaction and excitement for pork that comes with this bracket-style competition.”

Along with bragging rights, the winning restaurant will receive $250 and a “Pulled Pork Madness” plaque. Warehouse Barbecue was the top vote-getter in this social media contest that had 2,200 votes cast last March, beating out Iowa BBQ Company of LeMars.

Moo’s BBQ is up against Wildwood Smokehouse and Saloon of Iowa City in the match-up that will determine the best pulled pork sandwich in southeast Iowa in 2020. The Northeast final pits Blue Barn BBQ of Cedar Falls against Backwoods Bar and Grill in McGregor; the northwest final sees Burn Unit BBQ of Sibley facing Smokin’ Grumps Barbecue of Rockwell City; and the southwest final pits The Twisted Tail Steakhouse and Saloon of Logan against the Luther-based establishment Whatcha Smokin?

“We hold this social media contest to attract new pork fans and remind people that there are restaurants in all parts of Iowa that offer really great barbecue pork,” Byrnes said.

The National Restaurant Association asked President Donald Trump and Congress last week to take steps to provide the restaurant industry relief. The letter outlined the projected economic impacts of at least $225 billion during the next three months, with job losses of 5-7 million jobs, stemming from COVID-19.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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