After years of waiting, Meat Mitch Barbecue opens in Leawood’s revamped Ranch Mart North

Meat Mitch owner Mitch Benjamin is preparing to open a new location at the Kansas City International Airport.

Meat Mitch Barbecue softly opened at Ranch Mart North in Leawood just before the new year, after being in the work for four years. The restaurant sells all the classic barbecue dishes you may want, along with some unique dishes that have a bit of a twist. Above, owner Mitch Benjamin poses in front of the restaurant's "whomp" sign. Photo credit Nikki Lansford.

Nearly four years after first signing the lease at Leawood’s Ranch Mart North shopping center, Meat Mitch Barbecue has finally made its much-anticipated debut.

Located at 3620 W. 95th Street, the 6,300-square-foot restaurant’s opening has been pushed back due both to the ongoing $40 million renovation at the shopping complex on the northeast corner of 95th and Mission, as well as additional complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just been very exciting,” owner Mitch Benjamin said. “There’s been so many nights and months that I’ve sat here and looked at an empty restaurant. Actually having people in here and enjoying the food has been awesome.”

Staff at the bar prepare for Meat Mitch to open one day last week.

A soft opening

Meat Mitch opened softly right before the start of the new year on Dec. 28.

As part of its intentionally low-key start, the restaurant only did carryout from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Benjamin said the reason behind the soft opening was to give the restaurant time to work on its carryout system and address staffing issues.

“We don’t have enough servers to open up the restaurant entirely and turn it on,” Benjamin said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle to get a full staff.”

After doing two weeks of carryout only, Meat Mitch has since moved on to allowing limited seating around the restaurant’s bar area, but still with the shortened hours.

While no exact date is set for when the whole restaurant will be open, Benjamin said he hopes it will be within the next two to three weeks.

Serving up the classics

For their food, Benjamin says Meat Mitch sells all the classic barbecue dishes Kansas City barbecue lovers crave, along some dishes that have a bit of a twist.

“We just tried to be unique,” Benjamin said. “When you’re going to open up a barbecue restaurant where there’s hundreds and hundreds of them, you want to be able to have your own personality.”

The menu consists of 16-hour smoked Black Angus hand-carved brisket, St. Louis-style pork ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends and more.

One of the restaurants more unusual dishes is their side of sticky curly fries, which have little beads of honey to add a sweet taste to the traditionally salty food.

Other side dishes are the classic barbecue fixings, such as the barbecue pit beans, macaroni and cheese and bacon-broccoli slaw.

“I think it’s still too early to say if there is a favorite menu item, but … we do have a cool meat tower. It is kind of like a rip on a seafood tower with a three layers of appetizers and meats,” Benjamin said.

Meat Mitch Barbecue at Ranch Mart North in Leawood

History and future of Meat Mitch

Benjamin said he first got into barbecue through competitions. He won several awards at events, such as the American Royal, throughout his 20 years of competing.

Later, in 2014, he partnered with James Westphal and Mark Kelpe, the co-owners of Char Bar in Kansas City’s Westport, to feature and sell his variety of barbecue sauces, rubs and dishes.

Now, Benjamin said, his goal is to open up the Leawood restaurant fully as soon as possible, including the outdoor patio that will have games for patrons to enjoy playing while waiting for their meal.

Meat Mitch is also working to open a new location at the Kansas City International Airport terminal in 2023, Benjamin said.