When the Francis family had me over to their home to sample some of the dishes coming out of their Lawney’s BBQ endeavor, I wasn’t expecting much. First of all, I’ve never been a big fan of BBQ. It’s not that I don’t like it – I would just rather fill my belly with something else. After my knee-buckling first bite into their sliced brisket, though, I knew this was going to be a feast to remember.
When I go out to eat, I beg to be blown away and the prime piece of brisket I swiped off the pan after Lawney Sr. delicately sliced it did just that. The aforementioned “knee-buckling” adjective attributed to the experience isn’t hyperbole. If you see the maroon Lawney’s BBQ food truck out and about, get the brisket but grab a hold of something sturdy nearby. You’ll thank me later. While you’re at it, get some of their sauces to dip it in for a whole other experience. I mean, come on. It’s aged in whiskey barrels. It’s a combo angels would sing about if they were into brisket and whiskey barrel-aged sauces. That sounds like heaven to me.
After becoming distracted by the feast we partook in and forgetting to take any meaningful notes, I reached out to the family with a set of questions and they were more than happy to oblige me with insightful responses.
How long has Lawney’s BBQ been in business and what was the thought process behind opening it?
“Lawney’s BBQ has been in business for around 20 years from our first inception setting our trailer in the lake view shopping center with tables and chairs to our full scale food truck. The business started with the idea of could we do it? The idea then turned into an obsession and from there into a full scale business that offers premium wood smoked BBQ in an area that can’t experience those flavors.”
What were the expectations when it started and how have those compared to reality?
“When we first started out we just wanted to make good food. We went and tried all the big name BBQ places throughout the years to figure out who had the best BBQ and what styles people really enjoyed. From there we were told by the public that they really liked our stuff and they would love to buy it off of us which truly surpassed all expectations. To be where we are now to where we were then is completely mind blowing but something that we are proud of daily. “
You used to chop your brisket but have started to slice it. What was the decision making process behind that and how has the reaction been?
“There are two different styles of brisket: chopped and sliced brisket. Sliced brisket can truly only be accomplished when you finish smoking the brisket right before service begins and slice it immediately. Over time brisket will break down even more and eventually turn into chopped brisket. This style is extremely popular in Texas. We decided one year that we wanted to visit all the best BBQ places in Texas: Smittys, Kreuz, Blacks, Snow’s, and Franklin’s and what we discovered is that all these places are doing sliced brisket fresh daily. We knew then that if we wanted to be real pit smokers and represent Texas brisket we needed to do that as much as possible. People have clung to this and even sought us out because they know we are doing sliced brisket, which for some Texans was their first experience having it since leaving the state.”
Lawney’s BBQ recently started using barrels from Journeyman Distillery to age their sauces. Describe your experience with that and the feedback you’ve received.
“The success of our Barrel Aged BBQ has already set us apart from almost all of our competition nationwide …”
“Barrel aged anything is huge right now and the natural combination of BBQ and whiskey just makes sense. If you are not drinking a beer with BBQ, you almost have some kind of whiskey. However, very few places have been brave enough to actually age their sauce in it. We emailed a lot of different distilleries and breweries asking if they had any barrels we could use and almost immediately Journeyman Distillery was more than eager to work with us. These guys really know their stuff when it comes to the art of distillation and I was excited to be able to feature them and they offered us a barrel that had just been emptied. The pieces came together too well not to feature anyone else. We truly had no idea what would happen. Would our sauce taste like firewater and be too strong to use? Would our sauce become too runny because of the influx of liquid? Would our sauce even interact with the barrel at all? So we handled it just like a science project, tasting week after week, writing down notes, sampling out to different friends and once we hit the point we liked, we just knew.
The success of our Barrel Aged BBQ has already set us apart from almost all of our competition nationwide – this is just not a classic approach for BBQ chefs. This has made us an attraction at ZooBrew and most recently at Scottish Highlands games where people would ask, “Are you the Whiskey BBQ Truck?” This has even made us reevaluate something we haven’t changed in years – our sauce. We plan on buying even more barrels and the future only knows what might change.”
Besides the sauces and brisket, what else can someone find at Lawney’s BBQ
“Lawney’s BBQ is pure pit smoked BBQ. If it can be smoked, we have probably done it; However, we always feature pulled pork and brisket. In addition, we have a rotating list of meats such as blackened chicken, grilled chicken leg quarters, pulled chicken sandwiches and grilled pork loin sandwiches. Lawney’s also makes all our sides in-house including potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, broccoli salad and Mac n cheese. It should be known that if you want a specialty meat or southern dish prepared for your catering, we can do it.”
The food business is a tough one. What separates you from the others?
“We aren’t worried about being the best you have had in Indiana – we want to be the best period.”
“Lawney’s BBQ is relentless when it comes to making the best BBQ. We make all our own sauces, seasonings, and marinades as well as all our sides that are served. If it is on the truck, we made it all from scratch. We aren’t worried about being the best you have had in Indiana – we want to be the best period. We are always researching new techniques, methods, reading up on what is popular in the BBQ community. Additionally we are always refining what we make and adding new things on daily. We like to think if you aren’t growing, you are just getting by. In any business you have to constantly keep challenging yourself everyday pushing that comfort zone, you will never know what you could’ve made if you didn’t try, we came up with a new specialty dish just last month! Julia Child said, “Anyone can cook.” We just like to think we might just do it a little bit better.”
You have the mobile kitchen and do catering as well. How can people find out what events you’ll be at or where you’ll be set up for the weekend?