On a Friday when the temperature will dip below freezing, Cinder Block Brewery’s kitchen is parked just outside.
Chase Schaffter, 28, and Stephanie Simon, 27, co-owners of the Back Rack Grill — North Kansas City’s first food truck — are getting ready to receive orders via the iPad on the bar in the brewery’s taproom. As Simon’s sister zests four cases of oranges inside, for the Weathered Wit slated for brewing over the weekend, customers ask for pulled-pork sliders and cheesy fries.
“The first day we opened was an ice storm,” Schaffter says. “But thankfully, my smoker is triple-insulated, so we can smoke when it’s 2 degrees or 100 degrees outside.”
When Cinder Block (110 East 18th Avenue) opened last September, drinkers soon asked for more than pretzels to go with their Pavers Porter.
So Schaffter turned to Chase, a cousin who had helped him with the final stages of Cinder Block’s construction. Chase has been barbecuing competitively for the past 18 months, spending, by his account, every weekend smoking meats over hickory and pecan wood. Bryce asked Chase what he thought about running a food truck for Cinder Block. A week later, Chase found an old Hostess bread truck near the Lake of the Ozarks. He recruited his girlfriend, Simon, to help develop recipes and staff the truck on Saturdays.
While the Back Rack Grill was outfitted with a new generator, an air conditioner and a kitchen, Chase approached North Kansas City about licensing the food truck. The city agreed to grant him an itinerant merchant license, which allows him to vend outside Cinder Block. If he wants to take the truck elsewhere, he’ll have to apply for a separate license.
The menu’s 13 items, including sides, are still being tweaked. Chase is working to perfect his burger and wants to start offering ribs, which he considers one of his specialties (along with his burnt ends). The early favorite among the bar set has been the barbecue-brisket nachos ($9): a stack of tortilla chips loaded with cheese sauce, pico de gallo, brisket, and Back Rack’s barbecue sauce that Chase makes with a tomato-molasses base. On New Year’s Eve, he debuted a smoked-salmon sub ($9 with a side), topped with a mustard marinade and house-made coleslaw.
“These are all things you’re supposed to want with beer,” Simon says.
As for those sides, the onion rings are beer-battered and feature Cinder Block’s Northtown Native. There’s also a gma kay’s cheesy potatoes: hash browns with a cheese mix — Simon says it includes cheddar but doesn’t elaborate further — that could become the bar’s signature food.
“My grandmother is a heck of a cook,” Simon says. “She didn’t even give me the whole recipe the first time. But if someone tries them, they’ve never had better ones.”
The Back Rack Grill is named for the stand that Chase has built. In the coming months, he’ll mount his 1,000-pound vertical smoker on the back of the white food truck.
“If you can make it in Kansas City doing barbecue, you can make it anywhere,” Chase says. “You know that if you put in the time, use wood and charcoal, that it will be a lot more work, but it usually turns out the right way.”
The Back Rack Grill is open from noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays. Schaffter and Simon plan to extend the hours after the first month of operation.[Sandwich image via Facebook: Back Rack Grill]