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The word is out about Red Beard BBQ in Clearfield

By Valerie Phillips - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Aug 1, 2023
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Kelly and Heather Kennedy of Red Beard BBQ in Clearfield.
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A four-meat combo plate of brisket, turkey, ribs and sausage, served with cornbread, at Red Beard BBQ in Clearfield.
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A brisket-loaded sweet potato at Red Beard BBQ in Clearfield.
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Customers line up at 10:30 a.m. on a recent Friday morning outside Red Beard BBQ in Clearfield.

Red Beard BBQ is more of a badly kept secret than a restaurant.

It’s tucked away at the northeast corner of Clearfield’s Freeport Center. To find it, look for an industrial-looking building in a gravel parking lot, and a walk-up window with a line of people waiting to order.

Seating? There are three picnic tables that are perpetually occupied. For everyone else, it’s takeout or tailgate.

And Red Beard is only open on Fridays, from 10 a.m. until the food sells out, often by 1 or 2 p.m.

But during that brief time period, the line of hungry customers can stretch through the parking lot, going through 50 briskets, 40 racks of ribs and 30 pork butts, “and that’s as much as we can smoke in a day,” said Kelly Kennedy.

He and his wife, Heather Kennedy, own two catering companies, Company Grill and Red Beard BBQ, plus a food truck.

“We’re doing three to four catering jobs a day, so that’s why we’re only open here to the public on Fridays,” Kelly Kennedy said.

Company Grill specializes in grilling on-site at family reunions, businesses, weddings and other private parties. It’s been around for nearly 30 years, and the Kennedys have owned it about 20 years.

The Freeport Center building is their catering facility, “and it already had a window,” Kelly Kennedy said. “In 2017, we started opening the window up on Fridays for walk-up business, and that’s when Red Beard was born. It’s turned into an animal all of its own.”

The top-seller is brisket. The thick slices of juicy, tender beef have a browned outer layer, or “bark,” that carries the flavor of the seasonings and caramelization.

“We can’t make enough of it to satisfy everybody,” Kelly Kennedy said. “In the barbecue world, you are judged by your brisket. Worldwide, it’s the most popular barbecued food, although there are some places like Kansas City where pork is more popular.”

Burnt ends — the trimmings from a smoked brisket — are another popular item. “We usually sell out of them in the first hour that we’re open,” said Kelly Kennedy.

“We call it a Western twist on Southern barbecue, because we like to get a little creative,” said Heather Kennedy. “We have a PB&J brisket that’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with added brisket and candied jalapenos.”

Kelly Kennedy’s personal favorite is the Mac Blondie — macaroni and cheese topped with brisket and garlic sauce. “I like the overall flavor,” he said.

The Homer is a smoked burger, piled high with toppings and sandwiched between two glazed donuts. A customer suggested the name as a nod to Homer Simpson.

“It’s definitely a gimmicky thing, so they usually don’t get it every week, but a lot of people line up to get their picture taken with it,” Kelly Kennedy said.

The brisket-loaded sweet potato is less known, “but once people try it, they come back for it week after week,” he said. “It’s a Southern thing,”

The jumbo sweet potato — about the size of a small football — is split open and piled with brisket and jalapeno cream, then sprinkled with green onions.

Red Beard also has its own take on sides. The mac and cheese packs a hint of black pepper, and the jalapeno creamed corn is thick with cream and a touch of sweet heat.

Kelly Kennedy, from Morgan, came from a cooking-oriented family. His grandma, Renee Adamson, was the head cook at Bonneville High School. He became familiar with barbecue while living in North Carolina and Texas.

Heather Kennedy grew up around barbecue in Texas, where her father, Danny White, played for the Dallas Cowboys.

The two met while attending Utah State University. As a couple, they competed in Dutch oven cook-offs together, and then started doing barbecue.

“It took a lot of time to perfect,” Kelly Kennedy said.

For a while, he owned a leather manufacturing facility in Tooele. After he sold it, “We just jumped into catering,” he said, buying the Company Grill from a previous owner. They’ve grown the business, “mostly from word of mouth.”

When they decided to open their walk-up window on Fridays, Heather chose the name Red Beard, a nod to Kelly’s beard that’s now become streaked with gray.

“It’s turned into a marketing thing on its own, because people love the logo,” Kelly said.

Barbecue takes time to do right. Smoking brisket is an 18-hour process, “So sometimes we are cooking all through the night,” he said.

And if it sells out, you can’t run to the kitchen and quickly cook up more.

“By the time we trim the fat from the brisket, and it cooks down, we’ve lost about 50% of it, which is another reason why it’s so expensive,” said Kelly Kennedy. “We try to use everything we can from a piece of meat. We use the brisket trimmings for sausage and tallow.”

He thinks Red Beard has developed a following because “In Utah, many people have never had real Texas-style brisket. There’s not that many barbecue joints in Utah that can do it well.”

He credits Utah’s growing love of barbecue partly to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “You have all these missionaries going out to the Southern states, and they come back knowing what real barbecue is,” he said.

But Utahns have their own quirks. In Texas, brisket is typically served with a plain white slice of bread, to sop up the juice and sauce. But Utahns didn’t go for that, Kelly Kennedy said. “So we ended up using cornbread instead of white bread.”


Red Beard BBQ

Location: Building G-15 off 16th Street (northeast corner of Freeport Center), Clearfield

Contact: 801-200-4349

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday only, or until sold out.

Prices: $11-$21


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