Everyone eats barbecue. People in suits, people in jeans, people in dresses. So says Gary Kurashima, Tacoma native and owner of Fife's Warthog Barbeque Pit. It's what drew him to barbecue – the everyman appeal of smoked meat.
He celebrates his 10th year in business this week. I asked Kurashima what keeps his business plugging along when other restaurants come and go. In one word, his answer: consistency. His recipes are the same as when he opened 10 years ago; and so is much of his staff.
He was hyper focused in the beginning, with only about a dozen items on the menu –smoked brisket, turkey sandwiches, chicken and ribs among them. His menu has more than doubled now to include all kinds of things, such as chili, gumbo, buffalo burgers, prime rib and homemade pie.
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But one thing has remained the same: Kurashima's techniques and recipes.
He started his career smoking meats at BBQ Pete's on 72nd (now Honey Bee BBQ), and also worked at H.D. Hotspur's in Kent.
His style? "Old school trial and error."
He slow cooks and smokes his brisket for 12 hours. And the same for his signature buffalo burgers – slow and low and smoked. He uses rubs and brines to prep his meat. His sauces are house made.
His friends and family are the ones responsible for the flavor of Warthog. "I invited my entire family here a week before I opened. Their job was to critique the food. I had a card with 20 questions on it. … They had to give an honest opinion." And he got those honest opinions. He made tweaks and then retested the recipes six months after opening. Since then, his formulas and techniques have pretty much stayed the same.
I asked if he was planning anything to celebrate 10 years in business. He said when the weather warms, he intends to host something. Stay tuned for that.
So what's next for Warthog? He says he wants to start offering big Southern style breakfasts on the weekends – with smoked apple sausage, pancakes, sourdough French toast and "everything old school you can think of," he said.
And, even better news: he's researching opening a second location in Westgate, near Pearl. Why now, when the economy is in the tank? "This is a good opportunity," said Kurashima. He believes the lease would be cheaper and the terms a little sweeter. We'll keep you posted if he does open that second location.
Warthog Barbeque Pit
Where: 4921 20th St E., Fife
Contact: 253-896-5091 or www.warthogbbq.com