It’s rare for a restaurant to be an overwhelming success in its first year without a celebrity name or billionaire pockets backing the venture these days. Therein lies the mystery of R&R BBQ just off the freeway in downtown Salt Lake.
If you’ve been living under a rock the past 15 months or so with no access to red meat, R&R is the culmination of twin brothers Rod and Roger Livingston’s dream to open a barbecue restaurant in Utah. R&R BBQ began as a local, regional and national barbecue competition team before offering catering services and then breaking into Salt Lake’s restaurant scene.
“Our first year was amazing!” explains Rod. “We exceeded our expectations way beyond anything we could have imagined.”
Otherwise, you know that in addition to slow-smoked pork butts, meaty bones, award-winning chicken and creative specials, R&R’s recipe for success during their tremendous first year may be the first-time restaurateurs themselves—who remain as down to earth as ever and grateful to their customers. “What really amazes us is the following we have created,” says Rod. “We have people that every time they come into town this is the first place they stop. We have met people from all over the world. Our local customers are the ones that really make us believe we are doing something right. We have some we see at least once a week or more and many have really become our good friends.”
If the lines out the door most days are any indication, the Livingston’s know how to smoke a mean brisket—but they aren’t chefs by trade. They come from the financial/real estate industry which may be part of the reason their entrepreneurial business sense has resulted in solid financial success early on. “Our business is 200% above what we estimated it could be,” continues Rod. “We were pretty nervous about it but, as it turned out, we were the only ones worried.”
In fact, within months of opening, a much larger smoker had to be installed inside the restaurant because they couldn’t handle the volume of customers (and ran out of food every day!) and they also had a huge custom smoker made for catering which allows them to cook and serve an entire hog.
Never content to rest on their award-winning meats, the brothers are beginning year two with negotiations for a second location and mounting awards decorating their celebrated smoked goodness. In May, for the second year in a row, R&R BBQ swept the People’s Choice and Celebrity Choice awards at KUER’s Savory Salt Lake event as they competed alongside seasoned and well-respected Salt Lake City restaurants. They bested the competition with a quail egg-topped brisket crostini with a spicy aioli sprinkled with chives. This following a sweep of the same awards in 2013 with their brisket taco, now served at the restaurant on Taco Tuesdays. “Winning Savory Salt for the second year in a row was amazing for us,” says Rod. “Salt Lake has some incredible chefs and to win two years in row at that kind of venue was unreal.” They also recently made KSL’s list of 5 Salt Lake burgers to try with the Best BBQ Burger.
What’s more is that they are still holding court at barbecue competitions as well. While they’ve competed in far fewer competitions this past year, “Out of the five we have done this year we took third overall in Indio, California and Grand Champion in the local Sam’s contest where we took a first in brisket, third in pork, second in chicken and forth in ribs,” recalls Rod. “That one was a blast having our local crowd there and supporting us.”
Success hasn’t gone to the barbecue brothers heads though. “If Roger or I are in the shop we try to tell every table, ‘we really appreciate them coming here and if something is not right please let us know’. We think we have some of the best customers anyone could ever have. Gratitude is our thought every day!”
If for some crazy reason you haven’t ventured over to R&R BBQ yet, head in early or late for the best smoked meats in the city and don’t miss out on the fried okra or red beans & rice either. It’s just not barbecue without them—and a nice cold Uinta beer!
307 West 600 South, Salt Lake City, UT