Local BBQ champ set to open first Meat Mitch restaurant at Ranchmart later this year

Meat Mitch hopes to open at Ranchmart before the end of the year. Photo credit Meat Mitch.

A northeast Johnson County residents whose smoked meats, rubs and sauces have made him a legend on the competitive BBQ circuit is bringing the first restaurant to bear his name close to home.

Mitch Benjamin started participating in BBQ competitions about 15 years ago, and over the course of his time on the circuit developed a line of sauces and rubs that were so sought after he began to market them to food retailers under the “Meat Mitch” brand.

Mitch Benjamin, in black shirt with trophy, and his Meat Mitch competition BBQ team. Photo credit Meat Mitch.

As those products grew in popularity, Benjamin started talking with restaurateurs James Westphal and Mark Kelpe about the idea of opening a restaurant featuring some of his recipes. The results of that partnership, Char Bar Smoked Meats & Amusements, opened in 2014.

Last year, Benjamin was able to transition from his full-time job as a sales rep for TaylorMade Golf to focus on his BBQ businesses. Benjamin is working with Westphal and Kelpe along with Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers co-founder Scott Redler on the first restaurant to open under the Meat Mitch name. The team has taken out a lease for a 6,000 square foot space in the former Seasonal Concepts location at Ranchmart north. They hope to open before the end of 2018.

“This is the next evolution of the Meat Mitch brand,” Benjamin said.

He said the crew envisions outdoor seating as well as the kinds of yard games available at Char Bar, with garage doors incorporated into the design to allow for an open-air experience indoors when the weather is nice. The restaurant will offer an order-at-the-counter, get-your-food-delivered-to-your-table set up similar to SPIN! Pizza.

Benjamin said he was attracted to the Ranchmart space for a number of reasons.

“You look up and down Mission and you’ve got a lot of restaurants in the corridor up by the Village Shops and at Corinth, but 95th Street was kind of underserved, so we so it as a great opportunity to move in there,” he said. “It’s a great big space, which I love. And it’s got an immense parking lot, which is important because we want to be able to focus on the carry-out part of the business.”

The company will be working through the approvals process later this year.