Restaurant brings craft barbecue, beer and cocktails to North Lawrence

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Fire Canyon Barbeque celebrated a “Grand(ish)” opening on Saturday, offering their style of barbecue brisket, chicken, sides and cocktails at the former Slow Ride Roadhouse in North Lawrence. 

Owner and pitmaster Darren Shafer described his plans for the family-owned and operated Lawrence location, and how he hopes to fill a food void in North Lawrence. 

“Obviously, we want to have a restaurant — that’s our primary goal, right? We’re also still going to have bands,” Shafer said, referring to the location’s indoor and outdoor stages.

“But what we’re all about really here is just if you remember the word ‘craft,’ that’s what we’re trying to do here is craft — barbecue and craft cocktails.”

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Darren Shafer, center, slices brisket during Fire Canyon Barbeque’s “Grand(ish)” opening, Dec. 17, 2023 in North Lawrence.

Shafer describes his rub for the meats they smoke as salty and sweet, while also having a savory flavor. 

An IT professional by trade, Shafer said depending on how the new restaurant fares, Fire Canyon could become a full-time operation for him. 

Born and raised in Leavenworth County, Shafer graduated from KU and started his corporate career. After meeting his wife and starting their family, the couple moved to Colorado, where his wife is from. But once there, he noticed something was missing. 

“I get out there and I can’t find any decent barbecue. I mean, I scoured the state for over a year trying to find decent barbecue,” he said. 

So he decided to teach himself to smoke meat. He joined the Rocky Mountain BBQ Association and would judge competitions every weekend. He’d try and recreate the flavors that he experienced during competitions. He also used the internet to advance his skill. 

Eventually, his cooking grew sharp enough that he realized he could make some extra income smoking meats after friends and family repeatedly asked him to make them barbecue, and in 2013, he started a business. He catered events on weekends for friends and family, and even had multiple corporate jobs. Then he had the notion that he should start a restaurant. 

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

Real estate in Denver proved to be cost-prohibitive, so in 2015, he started a food truck. In 2019, family health concerns brought him back home to northeastern Kansas. Lawrence has some unique rules and regulations around food trucks, so Shafer started looking for available brick and mortar spaces in the area. 

Spaces he saw on East and West 23rd streets and downtown didn’t feel like the right fit. But Slow Ride Roadhouse, 1350 N. Third St., had been closed for multiple years after longtime owner Jesse Del Campo died after a motorcycle crash. 

Shafer knew of the location for years and said he realized, “This is where we need to be.” 

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Fire Canyon Barbeque is at 1350 N. Third St., the former location of Slow Ride Roadhouse.

It’s just minutes away from his home north of town, and it has room for his food truck, two stages for live music and plenty of storage for his firewood. Even the color scheme of the furniture inside matched his. 

“It was like a perfect match,” he said. 

The family added multiple TVs for game days, increased the number of beers on tap to 20, and renovated the kitchen. On top of slow smoked food, you can sample a variety of whiskey and beer flights, all of which are made in the Midwest. 

Regular hours of operation are still being decided, but keep an eye on Fire Canyon Barbeque’s Facebook page for updates from the business.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times The indoor stage at Fire Canyon Barbeque was ready Saturday afternoon for an evening performance by Rich Johnson After Midnight.
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August Rudisell (he/him) has been a photographer and videographer for The Lawrence Times since March 2021. He is a former dispatcher, he avidly consumes and creates local news, and he would love to meet your dog when out and about at a community event.

See more of his work for the Times here. He can be reached at arudisell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com.

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