Charles and Patrick Johnson are excited for the opportunity to bring a unique dining experience to their hometown.
The two – Charles, age 26, and Patrick, age 24 – are behind the Sugarfire Smoke House restaurant in Farmington.
The Farmington location will be the seventh in the fast-casual concept restaurant started in 2012 by their cousin, Mike Johnson.
Sugarfire Smoke House is an award-winning restaurant known for "its succulent brisket, pulled pork and ribs, as well as its signature sandwiches and sides that shine light on Mike’s dynamic capacity."
Mike began his culinary career specializing in fine dining, with his career launching under the tutelage of Emeril Lagasse before stints in Chicago, Paris and Colorado as well as St. Louis. He has been featured on a variety of national television shows, including Food Network’s BBQ, Brews & ‘Que (feat. Michael Symon), Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters, and Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay.
“(The progress of the restaurant) is way ahead of where I thought it would have been,” Mike said. “I’m very impressed.”
When word of the Farmington location was first made known in June of this year, co-owner and Chef Christina Fitzgerald said Farmington was a perfect fit for Sugarfire Smoke House. Fitzgerald expressed an interest in culinary arts at an early age, graduating from culinary school and serving as the captain of the culinary competition team. She rose to fame as a competitor on season 11 of Food Network Star.
The Johnson brothers have been working at the original Sugarfire location in Olivette. At the Farmington restaurant, it will be Patrick taking care of the business end, while Charles will help oversee the food part of the restaurant.
On Thursday, the two talked about what the Parkland can expect at the restaurant while crews were busy getting the new restaurant located on Walton Drive ready for a projected opening in mid-January 2018. They both expressed thanks to the contractors working to get the restaurant open.
A unique dining experience at Sugarfire Smoke House is each restaurant features a favorite local delicacy – lending Charles, Patrick and Mike to discussing what could be featured at the Farmington store.
They decided to put the question out to the community – what is a dish specific to the Parkland – and hope for future customers to share their thoughts on the restaurant’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/sugarfirefarmington.
Local artist Brandon Warren is commissioned to create a mural for the store, as well as the menu hanging above the serving area.
Everything about the restaurant will be familiar to Sugarfire Smoke House diners – from the soda served, the sides fixed up, the desserts available and the at-home atmosphere to make even first-time Sugarfire customers comfortable.
The two say they’ve made lifelong friends at the Olivette location — one of which, Shaun Heitert, is coming to work in Farmington for a couple of months. They are also bringing a couple of familiar local faces to work at Farmington including Jon Belken, Ethan Parker and Alex Cofer.
Kate Derby – also a cousin to the Johnson brothers – will create the signature Sugarfire pies in house. The Farmington location will feature pecan, apple, the Sugarfire pie and Mississippi Mud pie as well as the smoked chocolate chip cookies.
“Which are amazing,” Patrick said.
The soda served at the restaurant comes from Excel Soda from Excel Bottling Company out of Breese, Illinois – a family-owned company started by the late Edward “Lefty” J. Meier and Catherine Meier in the summer of 1936 with reward money Lefty obtained from catching a bank robber.
“The strength of Sugarfire is that it is different” from any other dining experience, Charles said. Ice cream served at the restaurant comes from a family-owned St. Louis company.
The dine-in restaurant will be the biggest in the Sugarfire chain – which has diners moving along a serving line with stations to select meat and sides, many of which are special creations of the Sugarfire chefs.
“Sugarfire has a huge variety of sides,” Charles said. “We have beans, coleslaw, french fries ... we have potato salad every day. Then, we have another like four sides that we make up – like brisket chili, hashbrown casserole with brisket …”
One side they say is a favorite is mac and cheese – and, Charles said he’s known to see customers leave when it’s not on that day’s menu.
“I think we’re going to have it every day…” he said. “When we don’t have mac and cheese, they leave the line...”
“That breaks my heart,” Patrick said.
Like the others, the restaurant will open at 11 a.m. and stays open until they run out of meat.
“The only thing that is frozen is the ice cream,” Patrick said. “Everything is made from scratch. We’re going to have our chefs just run wild.”
And, the two are currently hiring for the restaurant and know those who come on staff will love to be part of the Sugarfire family.
“We are really serious about the quality of everything and we’re excited to work all day, every day,” Charles said. “I think, for our employees, it’s going to be a fun environment.”