Seven days a week you'll find co-owners Rich Labatut and Gary Kurz popping in and out of their barbecue restaurant Saucy's (4200 Magazine St., 504-301-2755; www.-saucysnola.com). They lend a hand in the dining room, create new recipes, look over the ledgers and do everything else.
"You have to when you're first starting out, [because] you can't afford to pay anybody," Kurz says. "It helps you stay focused. You know what your product is. You know what you're serving. ... You see it every day."
The Uptown storefront, which used to house the restaurant Ignatius, functions as a dining room-turned-cupboard. A refrigerator filled with fresh eggs stands next to the cash register; extra condiments and ketchup bottles line shelves on the walls. It's a comfortable, down-home atmosphere for a casual lunch or Saturday supper.
Labatut and Kurz have been friends since their days at Brother Martin High School, though their passion for barbecue goes back even further; as a boy, Kurz couldn't wait to get his hands on the tongs at family barbecues. Many years later, when transitional points in their careers coincided, the two batted around the idea of opening a barbecue restaurant together. Before they knew it, a casual suggestion from Labatut became a business plan.
"[In the city], there's not many barbecue choices," Kurz says. "That's one reason why we opened, we lack really good barbecue ... [and] I always loved grilling and cooking. I'm not a cook-cook, but I grill. When my kids were growing up, I'd barbecue, have pork chops, hamburgers. ... I just like the taste better than doing it in the oven."
Barbecue aficionados, a notoriously tough crowd to please, will want to know the details of Saucy's process. The restaurant serves a dry-style barbecue in which the meat is seasoned with a dry spice rub and smoked. Diners add sauce at the table. All meats are smoked in-house using a mix of hickory, mesquite and oak to add flavor. The restaurant's compact size guarantees freshness; everything smoked at night goes out to the table the following day.
Kurz also is proud of the restaurant's sauce options. Five sauces, including a tomato-vinegar blend called Carolina-style and a heavier Texas-style option, can be added to sandwiches and barbecue plates. They serve other things, like Abbeville boudin and chicken with a house-made chipotle mayo. Classic sides, including baked macaroni and coleslaw, round out the menu.
For now, Kurz and Labatut plan to keep things low-key, looking ahead to neighborhood-friendly events like their "dads eat free" special on Father's Day. Though plans for a second location and expansion of their catering program are in the works, they are happy to focus on the everyday experience of the current business.
"If it's not right, we don't serve it," Kurz says. "We tell everyone, from our waitresses to our people in the back, always look at it, take the temperature. We say, 'If that's your grandmother out there, would you want to serve this food?'"