It’s a place where unabashed patriotism is served up every day.
From a daily rendition of the national anthem to veterans being greeted with a handshake and an expression of thanks, Mission BBQ has made it a point to honor military personnel and first responders.
That tradition will continue with the opening of the Maryland-based chain’s restaurant in Dover on Friday, Aug. 26 with a Military Appreciation Night to benefit USO Delaware. An official ribbon cutting will be held at noon the following Monday.
“Our founders, Bill Krauss and Steve Newton, are best friends and they share a love for barbecue and for our country,” said Linda Dotterer, brand ambassador for the company. “They wanted to do something meaningful and significant, to give back to uniformed American heroes”
After years of planning and months of experimenting with different barbecue recipes, the pair opened their flagship Glen Burnie, Maryland, restaurant on Sept. 11, 2011. Now numbering 35 restaurants stretching through what will be 10 East Coast states, the Dover location -- the first in Delaware -- is at the site of the former Lone Star steakhouse on North Dupont Highway. Each restaurant has a staff of about 50, a mixture of civilians and veterans.
Dotterer noted all meats served are smoked daily in the restaurant itself and nothing is cooked in a microwave or frozen in a freezer.
“That’s why we don’t serve ice cream,” Dotterer said. “That’s the only downside.
“This keeps everything handmade and handcrafted. Everything from the sides to the barbecue sauce, we make right here,” she said.
Visitors will find a dining area equipped with wooden tables and booths, each with a rack of at least six varieties of barbecue sauce. Customers get to choose from sauces ranging from the sweet Memphis Belle to the significantly hotter chipotle and habanera-laced Tupelo Honey Heat. Each table also provides a goodly supply of paper towels to clean sticky fingers. There are no attendants to serve the food; orders are placed and filled, then provided on metal trays that many military veterans will find quite familiar. Butcher paper lines each tray and plastic utensils and plates, if needed, simplify cleanup.
In addition to fountain drinks, there’s a supply of bottled sodas on ice, with condiments stored in a large Craftsman tool box.
The walls of each restaurant are festooned with military and first-responder memorabilia, from firemen’s jackets to unit patches and uniform insignia, and feature photographs from military installations in the immediate area.
“If customers come in, maybe they’ll see pictures of their grandfather or a neighbor and that will bring up some memories,” Dotterer said. “If a veteran comes in and wants to donate something, we’ll absolutely accept it. It’s an honor to be able to have that piece for our story.”
Customers dining at lunch time also will see something unusual for a restaurant, she added.
“We play the national anthem every day at noon,” Dotterer said. “Everything stops. We don’t answer the phone, we don’t take orders. Everyone comes out of the kitchen. We stop for two minutes and then we go back to work.”
Anyone wanting to join in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is welcome to do so, she said.
Dover’s Mission BBQ features three meat smokers, said Director of Operations Paul Sattler. A U.S. Army styled deuce-and-a-half truck parked outside provides one for catering as well.
Sattler said diners will enjoy the variety of meats, side dishes and barbecue sauces on Mission BBQ’s menu, all of which were developed from personal research.
Wanting a uniquely American dining experience, he, Krauss and Newton headed out to known barbecue havens -- Texas, St. Louis, North and South Carolina and Kansas City, to name a few -- collecting recipes. This hands-on work allowed them to develop such palate-pleasing items as North Carolina pulled pork and jalapeño and cheese sausages.
“We traveled, ate a lot, took notes of what we liked, came back and went to work,” Sattler said. “We spent months smoking and tasting proteins and sides with friends and family until we had the final menu.”
With its large contingent of police officers, emergency medical crews, firefighters and Air Force personnel, Dover seems a natural spot for Mission BBQ’s style of service.
“It feels like a good fit for who we are, what we do and why we do it,” Sattler said.