OTTUMWA — Opening a new restaurant is one way Dusty Ware is renewing his commitment to Ottumwa.
Warehouse Barbecue Co. & Brewhouse opened its doors Saturday at 2818 N. Court Road. But for Ware, it’s more than a restaurant.
He says he wants it to be a place where people can come to get away from the stresses of life. “People today struggle with information overload,” he says. “It’s not going to be a politically correct place. What I love about barbecue is that it brings people of all walks of life together. It’s unlike any type of cuisine.”
He says his menu sticks out for a number of reasons. The main one is that the menu is all barbecue; everything is a smoked meat. “We want to be authentic to who we are. We’re trying to be a pure barbecue joint,” Ware said, speaking also of his co-owners Roger Ware (Dusty’s dad) and Randy Ware (Dusty’s uncle).
One other thing that might be different: there’s not necessarily set hours for serving up meat. Ware said what they do is modeled after something he saw on a Texas barbecue tour. The restaurant will prepare a certain amount of food for the day, “and when we’re out, we’re out,” Ware said. If they don’t run out of food by 9 p.m., that’s when they’ll stop serving.
Ware, who also owns Floor to Ceiling, says he’s always been into the barbecue community, and as a lifelong Ottumwan, he wanted to help move the needle in the right direction. That’s why the remodel of former office space, which began in May, took some time.
“We wanted to use all local contractors,” Ware said, “and they’re not always readily available. We also knew what we wanted, and we worked to make sure every detail was the way we wanted it.”
Part of the remodel included adding a door to the building so it was easier for patrons to make their way from the parking lot to the restaurant. An outdoor patio area is ready for customers when the weather warms.
Warehouse is also giving back to the community. The restaurant is offering “Pics for Paws,” an effort where restaurant patrons can load their photo to social media and tag the restaurant. For every photo tagged, the owners are donating $2 to Heartland Humane Society.
Atmosphere is a big part of Ware’s business plan as well. “It’s a fun environment,” he said. “We want people to break out of their shell and laugh. We’re going to push the boundaries with humor a bit because that’s who we are.”
One way of pushing boundaries is with the names of certain dishes. Ware cited the restaurant’s “Big @$$ Bean Bowl.” Another dish, “Diet Starts Monday,” is a sampling of every meat on the menu. When a customer orders it, a bell is rung and an announcement made in the restaurant. “It’s big, but it’s not a food challenge,” Ware said.
While the brick-and-mortar restaurant is new, Warehouse Barbecue is a familiar name in the area. The owners have operated a trailer for three years now, and it will return this spring and summer for special local events. The response to the trailer was good, Ware said, so they expanded to catering. Now they have a restaurant.
“We always knew we wanted to do a restaurant but not when,” he said. “The time was just right.”
Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.