RACINE — Rick Smetana, owner of Ricky’s Place bar in Downtown, loves smoking meats and thinks he’s pretty darn good at it. That’s what led him to his latest venture, Richard’s Bar & BBQ at 3458 Rapids Drive, a business he’s slowly trying to build.
Previously, that was the site of Curmudgeon’s Bar & Grill, which had a history of problems requiring police calls, including a New Year’s Day shooting. Those incidents led the city, earlier this year, to move toward revoking the business’ liquor license. It was the beginning of the end for Curmudgeon’s.
It’s clear Smetana wants no repeat of those issues, as a prominent exterior sign facing the parking lot warns against loitering or loud music.
The Rapids Drive property, nearly adjacent to Batten International Airport, is owned by the Infusino family. Smetana said he’s friends with them, and when they called to ask if he wanted to open there, he accepted the challenge.
Smetana had been in the restaurant business two decades ago as part-owner, with two partners, of Neal’s Casual Fine Dining in Kenosha. Nineteen years ago there was a fire, and he said they lost everything. He decided to concentrate on Ricky’s, 236 Main St., until the Infusinos asked him about their Rapids Drive property.
By that time, Smetana said, he had developed a “passion” for smoking meats.
“I believe I have gotten to be pretty good at it,” he said, and he’s provided the smoked meat for numerous family events and parties. “And it was mostly very, very, very good feedback.”
New look, ‘really good food’
He and his wife, Kellie, opened Richard’s Bar & BBQ Sept. 1 after an extensive, floor-to-ceiling remodeling. Smetana calls the resulting look “rustic chic.”
“It looks like a smokehouse,” he added.
Smetana calls Richard’s “a bar with really good food.” The menu, which can be found on Facebook, is just a single page, and that’s the way Smetana likes it. “I want to only do a few things and do them well,” he said.
The menu’s appetizer category includes grilled wings, pork nachos, deep-fried pickles or green beans, and corn bread nuggets.
Sandwiches include a smoked pork sandwich for $8.95, smoked brisket sandwich for $10.95 and half-pound Angus/brisket blend burger for $8.95. Even vegetarians have choices: a grilled P, B & J for $5.95 and a soy veggie burger for $9.95.
Smetana said the first month in business was a long, “very soft” opening. He admits that lunches have been “pretty slow. Weekends have been pretty good, and weeknights are hit or miss.” But he thinks he’s been slowly building the business.
Richard’s Bar & BBQ serves food from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and until 8 p.m. on Sundays, but it’s open until bar time. For more information call 262-456-2001.