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Where there's smoke, there's good eats at McCormicks
By Kathryn Rem

Walk into McCormicks Smokehouse Restaurant and you'll be hit with the aromas from the in-house smokers, two of them, nestled in a corner of the kitchen. 

Roast beef, pork butt, whole chickens, beef ribs, beef brisket - they're all in the smokers, over hickory chips, cooking slowly for hours until tender. 

The finished meats will make their way into a variety of menu items: pulled chicken sandwiches, Italian beef poor boys, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken salad, pork nachos, loaded baked potatoes, brisket horseshoes, rib samplers and platters piled with meats and side dishes.

"You're going to get better quality by integrating whole meats into the menu," said Jarred McCormick, who owns the restaurant in The Gables with his wife, Sarah.

He didn't always do that.

When Jarred was 21, he opened his first restaurant in downtown Springfield. Located at 210 S. Fifth St., McCormicks Deli sold deli sandwiches, soups and salads. Lunchtime sales were brisk.

Four years later, in 1998, Jarred and Sarah - now married - wanted to expand the business. They thought Springfield's growing west side was the place to go. They moved McCormicks to 2621 West White Oaks Drive. 

It did well, so well that the couple opened a second restaurant, a barbecue joint called Fire and Spice Smokehouse. It was at 2930 Plaza Drive, the site of the current restaurant. Wanting just one restaurant that included both barbecue and a deli, in 1999 they rolled the deli into the smokehouse and renamed it McCormicks Smokehouse Restaurant.

The business day there starts at 4 a.m., when employee Mindy Iocca arrives to start baking the bread. Other employees file in early to get catering orders ready. Cardboard boxes are stacked on tables and filled with chips and cookies. Sandwiches and salads are added just before delivery.

"We do a lot of business lunches - doctors' offices, schools, pharmacy reps," Jarred said. But McCormicks' catering isn't just sandwiches. It handles large dinners and receptions, providing hot breakfast buffets, Italian feasts with pasta dishes, hors d'oeuvres parties, tacos and nacho bars and buffets featuring the smoked meats.

The restaurant menu includes deli sandwiches, burgers, grinders, salads, soups, baked potatoes, horseshoes, meats, sides and desserts. Kids' meals are available, as are to-go family packs that feed six. 

Inside the brick building with orange awnings, there is seating for 90. In warm weather, an outdoor patio accommodates another 25. Delivery is offered, and there's a drive-through lane.

The menu changes regularly.

"One thing we do is bring in new items in order to prevent customers who come in every day from getting bored," said Jarred, who formerly worked at Turasky Meats. In January, gas-grilled steaks were added.

"We are the epitome of a family-owned restaurant," said Sarah McCormick, a licensed practical nurse who abandoned her plans to become a registered nurse when she married Jarred and joined the restaurant business. 

"Jarred and I are here every day as a team. Many family members work here. We feel it makes good energy when you work for so many hours together and are like family," she added. The couple's son, 13-year-old Jarred, spends time in the restaurant, too.

"We think the good energy in the kitchen," Sarah said, "permeates into the dining room."

 

Story published Friday, May 6, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 3 )

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