Ed Knight's beginnings in the barbeque business were humble.
"I just started with a tent at the corner of Highway 265 and Highway 45," Ed said. "I was on a couple different corners around there until they were sold and we took a place inside and the rest is history."
Since that day in July, 1993 when Ed opened his first barbeque operation on a corner lot, much has changed for the entrepreneur. After opening in a tent with few luxuries -- such as air conditioning, a telephone or a cash register -- Ed soon moved into a small trailer where he operated for another three years. Today, Ed operates three Penguin Ed's Bar-B-Que restaurants around Fayetteville. Uniquely named, Penguin Ed's harkens back to the days when Ed created a bevy of paper --mache' penguins to keep him company while he worked.
Those penguins, and hundreds of others, survive today and greet guests at a couple of his locations.
'Doesn't happen over night'
Ed became interested in the art of barbeque while living in Kansas City. A business partner of his was into competition barbeque and Ed would lend a hand.
"My partner did competition cooking like American Royal and a couple others," he said. "That's where I got my interest in it. I also worked for KC Masterpiece a while."
Ed's wife had a job offer in Northwest Arkansas and took it. After about a year of regularly commuting, he tired of the drive and separation and decided to move south himself. He explored many employment options and finally decided to jump into the barbeque business.
"If I had been smarter I would have quit," he joked. "I didn't make money many years. I don't know how we even got by, to tell you the truth. " many
During the early years, Ed said, he learned many lessons.
"No. 1, it doesn't happen over night," he explained. "One generation, one trial and one attempt and you know... then things stick. If you hold true to certain principles then suddenly you have something going on, which we do, I guess. I'm pretty pleased with it. "
He should be. Ed's three restaurants regularly pack in the guests for lunch, dinner, to-go orders and caterings. One of his locations,Penguin Ed's on Mission, even serves up breakfast on weekends. Penguin Ed's on Mission in East Fayetteville.
On the side
When asked what style of barbeque he serves, Ed paused, thoughtfully.
"Everybody's barbeque is a compilation of things," he suggested. "They borrowed from here and stole from there and tried to do their own thing. Barbeque is always judged without sauce. Just the meat and that's what I went for."
To accompany his barbeque beef, pork and chicken offerings, Ed has developed a wide menu of traditional barbeque t side dishes.
"We have all the popular sides," he said. "Baked beans and coleslaw, potato salad and mac and cheese."
Penguin Ed's B&B offers side dishes unique to the location's menu for decades: Batter dipped fries, fried pickles and fried pies.
"We serve them because they always had them," he said of the restaurant he acquired from a local family early in his Fayetteville restaurant career. "None of the other stores have them. We bake potatoes and then fry them on the grill. Their called home fries."
Ounce for ounce
While barbeque and his signature sides are always popular, Ed said one of his best sellers took him by surprise.
"Our No. 2 best selling item, most people wouldn't guess, is the smoked chicken salad," he said. "It comes in just behind the sales for our pulled pork sandwiches, which I would say is somewhat rare for a BBQ place."
Ed did have a suggestion for anyone who drops in for a barbeque meal at any of his locations.
"If anybody asks me what to get, I would tell them to get a half chicken combo," he said. "That's ounce for ounce the best value and the best meal I can put on the plate. "
Next time your in the Mission Penguin Ed's on Mission, ask about their smoked prime rib special. Ed said it's one of his favorites.
"One of the things that kind of made our notoriety are our cookies. They are made fresh from scratch every day."
Penguin Ed's on Mission
2773 East Mission
Sun-Thurs: 10:30 am -- 8:30 pm
Fri & Sat: 10:30 am -- 9 pm
Breakfast Sat. & Sun.: 7:00 am -- 11:00 am
Penguin Ed's Historic B&B
Mon-Thurs: 10:30 am -- 8 pm
Fri-Sat: 10:30 am -- 9:00 pm
Sun: 10:30 am -- 3:00 pm
Penguin Ed's West
6347 West Wedington
Sun-Thurs: 10:30 am -- 8 pm
Fri-Sat: 10:30 am -- 9:00 pm
On the web: penguineds.com
Get social: facebook.com/Penguin-Eds-105367290870. Find them on Twitter at twitter.com/penguineds
Questions about this or other dining features? Contact Dave Woods at 479-571-6491 or dwoods@NWADG.com.NAN Dining Guide Cover on 12/03/2017
Print Headline: Penguin Ed's Bar-B-Que keeps smoking