Patrick Riha, whose mobile kitchen, Beef Butter BBQ, has a good following when he stations it at the Sun Prairie Woodman's on weekends, is opening his restaurant of the same name Saturday.
Riha's restaurant passed its health inspection this week and he's ordered all his meats and other ingredients. His plan is to open Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Beef Butter BBQ will be in the former Habanero's Mexican Grill, 3001 N. Sherman Ave., which moved into the mall area of the same Northside Town Center.
Riha said his winter hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. During spring, summer and fall he plans to be open seven days a week.
More than three years ago, as Riha was reading an article about the nine most difficult restaurants to get into in America, he found a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas, at the top of the list.
"I know difficult restaurants to get into because I lived in downtown Chicago for 20 years. So I looked it up," said Riha, who would soon travel to Austin to try Franklin Barbecue for himself.
Customers camp out for hours to get in, so Riha said he stopped at a Walmart after his flight the night before to buy a folding chair. He got there at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday and was eating by 12:30 p.m.
"It was amazing," he said. "I'm like, 'There's nothing like this in Wisconsin. I wonder if I could bring something like this to Wisconsin?' "
During his visit, he spoke with co-owner Aaron Franklin. He'd read Franklin's book, "Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto," in advance and has read it "cover to cover" several times since, he said.
All that inspired Riha to start his own barbecue venture in his hometown of Madison.
The mall's landlord wooed Riha and is responsible for the renovations to the building, which before Habanero's, housed a Rocky Rococo's.
Even though Riha was busy catering large corporate events and weddings with his 24-foot trailer, he said having a restaurant will give him a showcase for his food.
Since he's already smoking meat all day anyway, he figured he might as well have a restaurant that serves lunch and an early dinner. The restaurant is also a way potential catering customers can easily try his barbecue.
In Texas, lovers of great smoked brisket like to say, “That’s not fat, that’s Beef Butter,” Riha says on beefbutterbbq.com. "And being in Wisconsin we all know that butter makes everything great."
His specialty is brisket made with Angus prime beef, and also fall-off-the-bone smoked ribs. The business has also become known for its pulled pork, chicken and "smoked apple pie baked beans."