Wicked Smoke brings Memphis BBQ to Waterloo

Pictured out back by the smokers are Wicked Smoke owners Lance Kingston and Chrissy Sperduto. The restaurant is located at 951 N. Illinois Route 3 in Waterloo. (Corey Saathoff photo)

Waterloo’s newest restaurant was inspired by two former residents who desired to share their love of Memphis-style barbecue back home.

Lance Kingston and Chrissy Sperduto opened Wicked Smoke Bar-B-Que at 951 N. Illinois Route 3 in Waterloo last Tuesday. They’ve had trouble keeping up with customer demand ever since — and also catching up on sleep.

“It’s a lot of work and it gets tiring, but I really do enjoy it,” said Kingston, a 1995 Waterloo High School graduate. “There’s still a learning curve right now until we get a feel for how many regular customers we will have.”

Kingston, the lone pitmaster of the BBQ operation, goes in at about 1 a.m. daily to start the smoking process and sometimes does not get home until around 9 p.m.

Kingston and Sperduto were living in Memphis — where Kingston was working for the railroad — when they decided it was time for a change. Neighbors and friends in Memphis had enjoyed Kingston’s home cooking, so they started thinking of ways to turn that into a career.

“He just didn’t want to be on the road so much anymore. We originally thought about doing a food truck, then it just sort of evolved into this,” Sperduto explained.

All of the meat at Wicked Smoke is smoked fresh on-site daily using hickory and cherry wood to fire two 1,700-pound, six-foot-wide by four-foot-deep Myron Mixon smokers. Each smoker holds up to 35 gallons of water, or an apple juice mixture, to aid in the cooking process.

The smokers are fed wood every 45 minutes until all of the meat is done at around 10:30 a.m. Both smokers get fired back up around 1 p.m. for chicken and chicken wings, since the original batch of meat is selling out about that time every day.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Kingston said of his grilling experience. “I just decided to take that leap forward.”

Kingston cooks beef brisket and chicken on one smoker and pork ribs and butts on the other.

The Memphis style of barbecue involves slow cooking and dry rub, using just a light glaze of sauce on the ribs.

“That’s the style we like and we hope the people in Waterloo like it, too,” Sperduto said.

Wicked Smoke offers three kinds of barbecue sauce on the tables for customers to try on their meat: original, sweet and spicy. All three are gluten free.

The ribs are glazed using the sweet sauce, Sperduto said.

Sides offered at the restaurant, which has a seating capacity of 95, include mac ‘n cheese, cole slaw, baked beans (with pulled pork) and potato salad (with bacon on top).

Wicked Smoke also serves nachos with pulled pork or chicken with cheese, jalapenos, sour cream and tomatoes.
Sperduto said she and Kingston have been working non-stop since Wicked Smoke opened and are thankful for the help of their limited staff, most of which are related in some way.

“It’s a small family operation, basically,” Sperduto said.

Kingston and Sperduto gave a special shout out to young Josh Campbell, who has taken on the early role of “junior pitmaster” this summer.

“He’s been a huge help,” Kingston said.

Hours of operation at Wicked Smoke are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., or until the food runs out, Monday through Saturday (closed on Sunday).

Wicked Smoke also does catering, but requires 48-hour notice on all orders.

For more information, call Wicked Smoke at 939-2271.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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