Sidle by the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pine Street in Tacoma come May to discover a fresh sight next door to Engine House No. 9: a walk-up window slinging smoked meats and cold beers under the name BK’s Barbecue.
Focused on the Central Texas style, brisket — seasoned traditionally with salt and pepper — will anchor the menu at BK’s, accompanied by baby-back ribs, pork butt, chicken quarters and hot links. The smokers will live inside the kitchen, per health department regulations, but chef Kyle Campisi insists his business partner is up to the challenge.
His father, Robert Campisi, has studied barbecue for two decades, sharing the fruits with coworkers, friends and family, but he has long dreamed of opening his own shop.
“He’s bringing the meat experience and the smoking experience,” said Kyle Campisi, who has served as executive chef of Table 47 and Ocean 5 in Gig Harbor since late 2019. When that restaurant and venue closed temporarily during the winter pandemic shutdown, the former X Group catering chef returned to The Pine Room to assist friend and pastry chef Julia Brown at Cat & Rabbitt Cake Shop, a walk-up bakery operating out of the kitchen at 2811 6th Ave.
The building is owned by X Group — parent to Asado, Engine House No. 9 and E9 Brewing & Pizza Works — and founder John Xitco has opted to lease kitchen space in the wake of lost events.
Sensing the barbecue concept filled a void in Central Tacoma, the chef convinced his dad to retire as a commercial printer and throw his weight behind this father-son outfit.
“I know the business,” said Kyle Campisi, “and you know how to barbecue.”
Meats will be served by the pound or as combo plates of one, two or three styles (save for half-rack of ribs) — all served with two sides and house pickled cucumber and red onion. They will also be layered between buns topped by those accoutrements.
While the meat matters, Campisi will harness his years in catering kitchens, as well as the late X Group restaurant Masa, to develop sides that can stand on their own.
“You can make the sides special,” he said, “which will in turn make everything special.”
Dueling mac and cheese varieties will feature sharp white cheddar and jalapeno. House coleslaw will contrast with “crunchy, acidic, bright” flavors, said Campisi, “instead of sweet and wilted and disappointing.” A light-mayo Yukon gold potato salad will add acidity with pickled red onion, roasted bell peppers and cilantro. Baked beans will begin as dried legumes, rehydrated with chicken stock and seasoned with the helping hand of pork belly.
Rather than be an afterthought, he wants the sides to truly complement the meat.
“Why do you want barbecue sauce and smoke twice?” he asked. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
His favorite might just be the Texas caviar, a bright medley of black-eyed peas, pinto beans, corn and tomato.
“It’s simple but light and bright — and cold,” said Campisi, another contrast to richness from the smoker.
The meat, though, is all Bob.
Outdoor-only to start, BK’s Barbecue will set up in the lot between The Pine Room and Engine House No. 9, with packaged wine and beer, probably including Texas mainstays like Lone Star and E9 brews. Prices will align with other local spots, such as BBQ2U in Gig Harbor and Jack’s BBQ, another central Texas joint that expanded to Algona last year, which translate to $15-$20 for a meat-and-two to $13-$25 a pound, depending on the protein.
They plan to open at 11 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday and hope to sell out by late afternoon.
Emerging from the pandemic, the timing of an outdoor-focused, takeout-able concept is surprisingly ideal.
“This is probably the best opportunity to open a restaurant with probably the least amount of risk,” said Campisi.
▪ 2811 6th Ave., Tacoma, instagram.com/bksbarbecue
▪ Details: target opening May 2021, anticipated hours Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m or sell-out