If you ask restaurant owners Craig and Lisa Dudinetz if their The Candied Rib Company is a BBQ business, they would answer simultaneously, “Sort of!”
Craig’s completely original salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy, candy-coated rib sauce concocted is just a tease for his myriad of other beef and pork dishes and sides.
They started the business out of their home in Mt. Juliet in 2017 as a catering and lunch box business. Now, they count the days until they open a brick-and-mortar establishment for takeout by early March. Many local business owners and residents are already familiar with their box lunches and catering meals.
The Candied Rib Company is located in the former Pizza Hut location at 3560 North Mt. Juliet Road, across the street from Mt. Juliet Middle School.
This quirky, super-talented couple with five shared children say they can’t wait for the community to meet them and taste their fare that includes not just their candied ribs, but other smoked and homemade dishes.
“Our barbecue is elevated and anything but traditional,” said Craig, who has years of experience in the restaurant business. “We are a local, farm-to-takeout featuring beef, pork, hydroponic lettuce and dairy, all from local farms on a menu that changes daily.”
He and Lisa wanted to set themselves apart and be anything but traditional.
“It’s BBQ elevated,” Craig said. “The bottom line is great food partnered with local farmers for eggs, chickens, cream, milk, coffee, pigs, beef and more.”
Both Craig and Lisa said they are proud to use locally sourced food.
“We have a beef farm five minutes from our home,” said Lisa. “There’s a hydroponic farm for veggies and we use local farms from Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and Wilson County.”
Candied Rib’s journey
Craig spent the majority of his career at Demos’ restaurants, and PDK Southern Kitchen. He went to culinary school and ended up director of operations at PDK.
Lisa has 10 years of restaurant and retail management. She’s been an entrepreneur as well, and throw in jobs as a lifeguard and truck driver. They met at Demos’ and married in 2012.
After culinary school, Craig made hanging around his small smoker his hobby. He easily admits at first it was bad barbecue.
“But I kept getting better and I really wanted to open my own restaurant with all my knowledge and expertise,” he said. “I knew I wanted a small operation and did not want employees really, and wanted reasonable hours so I could have a personal life too.”
Craig knew Lisa could sell anything. He crafted some recipes. Their first gig was at the 2017 Mt. Juliet Police Department Christmas banquet. Prior to that event, Lisa dropped off food samples all over Mt. Juliet, including the police and fire departments.
“They have catered a lot of our events,” MJPD Cpt. Tyler Chandler said. “I think it’s a great joy to work with local businesses that truly care. They first started off randomly dropping off samples and we started ordering and haven’t stopped.
“We all got super excited when they stopped by. Their food is so good. We’ve had their beef brisket, ribs and chicken.”
Craig said he gets the whole pig and cow into his kitchen.
“You get two briskets from a cow,” he said. “And two racks of ribs, plus more.”
One menu item is a brisket burger — sliced beef brisket, romaine lettuce, roasted onions on a Brioche bun. Pair it with cheddar crusted mac-n-cheese.
All their top menu items are based around barbecue, such as a smoked pot roast, smoked pulled pork with pineapple and ginger, and a Philly swiss steak sandwich. Favorite sides include honey charred broccoli.
Craig wakes up by 4 a.m. to start smoking and cooking. Meat and chicken are always in his smoker.
“I have a commercial smoker and use four to five different types of wood,” he said.
They will have an open kitchen for those who pick up so they can watch him cook and he’s always ready to meet new customers and chat. Their space is 1,154-square-feet and for now it will just be takeout and catering.
At first, they will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. In about a month they plan to open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Offsite catering will be available when the restaurant is closed.
“It’s sort of like a food truck that stays in one place,” Craig said.
Sister’s WhimZy co-owner Carmelita Stafford is already a regular customer.
“Candied Rib Company is top notch!” she said. “We buy lunches for ourselves and our employees.”
Stafford said she has ordered a Thanksgiving turkey cooked by the restaurant owners the past three years and last year ordered a Christmas ham from them.
“They are so fun and interesting,” she said. “What I like most is their work ethic and ambition. They hustle just like I hustle.”