Tim Sines worked as a computer systems engineer for more than two decades. But there was always something missing. “I was tired of sitting in a cubicle,” Mr. Sines said. “I’d spent 20 years doing a job that I did just to get paid. And now I’d rather do something that I’m passionate about.” That […]
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 26 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
Tim Sines worked as a computer systems engineer for more than two decades. But there was always something missing.
“I was tired of sitting in a cubicle,” Mr. Sines said. “I’d spent 20 years doing a job that I did just to get paid. And now I’d rather do something that I’m passionate about.”
That passion has led him to purchase the former Anvil Meat Market location at 92 16th Ave. SW in Czech Village, and transform it into his new full-time venture – Up In Smoke BBQ.
Technically speaking, Up In Smoke is not a new enterprise for Mr. Sines and his son, Adam. The two have worked together on catering and vending for the past 10 years, serving a variety of smoked meats and side dishes at graduation parties, corporate events and other special occasions. But until now, it’s always been essentially a side hustle for the family.
“I’ve always had a passion for cooking, but barbecue was something I did better than the average bear,” Mr. Sines said. “There were a lot of opportunities. I liked going to barbeque festivals, and barbecue really lends itself to events and catering. It really started because a friend of mine who worked at Rockwell Collins gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, we just won this award. I want you to cater our party.’ I said, ‘but I’m not a caterer.’ He said, ‘But you are. You just need to make enough food for this many people, and you’re a caterer when we pay you.’ So Rockwell Collins was my very first catering gig. And then people from that asked ‘Can we hire you to cater this?’ and ‘Can you cater a wedding?’ It rolled like that for a decade.”
The major transition came when Cedar Rapids Kernels general manager Scott Wilson asked if Up In Smoke could become a full-time barbecue vendor at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I was planning to quit my job in May 2020, then COVID happened, so there was no baseball,” Mr. Sines said. “I went back to my job, then in May 2021, I quit my job and started doing barbecue full-time at the stadium. And that’s when we started looking for an establishment.”
When Anvil announced it would be closing, the ideal location for Up In Smoke became available, Mr. Sines said. Czech Village was home to Polehna’s Meat Market from 1931 to 2008, Village Meat Market and Cafe from 2012 to 2019, and Anvil Meat Market from May 2020 to September 2021.
Mr. Sines said the building’s owner, a longtime friend, recommended the former Anvil site as Up In Smoke’s brick-and-mortar location, in part because the basic infrastructure for meat smoking and food preparation was already in place, including a smoker previously used by Village Meat Market.
Still, extensive renovations are underway at the front of the building before Up In Smoke fully opens to the public. A wall is being removed, and several seating areas will be installed, including a dining counter and several communal tables designed to echo the building’s Czech heritage.
Unlike some other barbeque restaurants, the emphasis at Up In Smoke will be on family-friendly dining, Mr. Sines said. A variety of canned beers will be available, but the restaurant will not have a full liquor license.
“We’re definitely looking at a family diner feel,” Mr. Sines said. “We were very serious about not owning a bar.”
“It’s supposed to be super family-friendly,” Adam Sines added. “One thing that can happen at places that have a liquor license is it only takes one person to get a little too drunk. Plus, there are plenty of places in the area to go do that kind of thing.”
In line with that philosophy, Mr. Sines said he expects Up In Smoke will be open only from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. or thereabouts, avoiding the late-night crowd.
Up In Smoke isn’t yet open for in-house dining – Mr. Sines said he hopes that happens by mid to late April – but takeout orders, from a limited menu, have been being filled from the kitchen for the past several weeks, Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Regarding the menu, Mr. Sines said Up In Smoke will always offer smoked meat staples like pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken, baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread. But other options are surfacing, and certain selections will change periodically.
“If we have extra pulled pork, it might go into the baked beans,” Mr. Sines said. “If we have extra brisket, that’s going in the baked beans. We’re always doctoring up, and sometimes we doctor bigger than other times.”
“You’ll never get the same experience here twice,” added Adam Sines, who works primarily in the kitchen. “We’re going to have a rotating menu with sides that won’t always be available.”
One item that’s already been particularly popular is smoked salmon. So far, it’s been offered in a smoked salmon salad sandwich, but it will likely be available soon as a filet, either as a main meat course or atop a salad.
Virtually every item at Up In Smoke is made in-house, often the product of several experimental iterations, from the coleslaw and pickles to the cornbread and the macaroni and cheese, made to order. The restaurant even makes its own barbecue sauce, Mr. Sines said.
Mr. Sines hesitated to categorize his smoked meats in a specific niche.
“When you talk about barbecue style, I think that’s a good thing to consider when you’re at a competition,” he said. “When I describe my style, I call it hickory-smoked Midwest barbecue. We’re definitely not Texas barbecue. We’re certainly not Carolina barbecue, and I wouldn’t argue that we’re Memphis, St. Louis or Kansas City either. We tried to pull ideas from all of those different types, but we have a unique flavor profile. We’re probably the most seasoned barbecue in town. A lot of barbecue is subtle and mellow. That’s not us. We’re bringing the smoke; we’re bringing the rubs. If you want pot roast, we’re not that spot.”
While bringing barbeque to the Czech Village may seem unusual, Mr. Sines said he hopes Up In Smoke will blend well with the district’s emerging vibe.
“This specific spot actually has traditionally been a Czech place,” he said. “We have no Czech heritage that I’m aware of. But I think the southwest side needs good barbecue.”
That’s the thing that Czech Village brings for us, a big community feel,” Adam added. “We’re trying to bring together a place where everybody can come; families can come and dine – a one-stop for all.”