Smoke & Kettle to reopen in two locations

In a retooling of David Sandusky’s Smoke & Kettle concept, the craft pitmaster and nationally renowned chef is roaring back with not one but two locations.

After a successful Lenten debut at the KC Club & Event Center (5420 Old Collinsville) in O’Fallon, Illinois, he plans to reopen the restaurant full-time starting May 22. The restaurant will serve up fish and chicken-forward dishes, as well as barbecue and daily specials.

Then, on June 7, Sandusky and his wife, Meggan, vice president and director of marketing, plan to bring their new brand to the Catholic War Veterans (3535 S. Route 159) in Freeburg, Illinois.

Both concepts will offer dine-in and carryout service, and each space includes a 300-seat banquet hall. “This will enable us to hold very large groups and events for all our brands,” says Sandusky. “A full catering menu will quickly follow.”

The restaurants are slated to be open from 4–8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

The Menu

The centerpiece of the menu is the fish batter, which Sandusky developed to be extremely crisp and flavorful, inspired by his early years working with seafood from around the world. He describes it as a delicate blend of vodka, salt, and a hint of pilsner. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind product—less spongy and glutenous than typical beer batters can provide,” he says.

For the chicken ‘tendies’ and pork tenderloin sandwich, Sandusky created a crunchy breading method. The chicken is breaded with chicken flour, the batter is made with chicken flour, and then the meat goes back in the chicken flour, he explains.

Corn-breaded oysters, also used in a po’ boy, are dusted with Creole seasoning. “The oysters get my own catfish breading, which is cornmeal-based,” he says. 

Fish and chips plates are served with Southern slaw and pimento hush puppies, with fresh tartar sauce for the cod and hot honey for the jumbo shrimp. The Creole-dusted chicken ‘tendies’ are served with battered fries, slaw, and garlic toast, accompanied by either special sauce or sorghum mustard. The tenders are also featured on a chicken sandwich with mayo, lettuce, and pickles.

Barbecue items include brown-sugar rubbed pulled pork and smoked, fried, and sauced rib tips, served with white cheddar macaroni and cheese, slaw, and garlic toast.

The sandwich menu includes the aforementioned fried chicken tenders, pulled pork, pork tenderloin, and the oyster po’ boy served with remoulade, and Sandusky has added his widely hailed burger. It comes as a single quarter-pound patty or double, topped with American cheese, bacon onion jam, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and special sauce. Sandwiches are paired with a side of battered fries.

Two types of loaded fries are offered: Fancy (with garlic, Parmesan, chicken, chives, special sauce, and white barbecue sauce) and Orleans (with pimento cheese, chopped chicken, chives, Creole dust, and remoulade).

Shareables include pig skins, onion rings, and jumbo smoked wings.

Featured desserts include a salted caramel banana pudding, funnel cake fries, and a chocolate chunk cookie.

The Backstory

The Sanduskys are already well-known among barbecue fans for the acclaimed BEAST Craft BBQ in Belleville, Illinois, since 2014 and are one of the vendors at CITYPARK and at Washington University, in addition to operating a food truck. They closed BEAST Butcher & Block in The Grove in March 2023, as well as BEAST Southern Kitchen & BBQ in Columbia in May 2022, citing pandemic-related issues.

Over the years, BEAST Craft has racked up a host of accolades. Yelp recently named BEAST Craft BBQ the 27th best barbecue restaurant in the country. Food & Wine declared it the “Best BBQ in Illinois,” Thrillist named it among the “Top 33 BBQ Joints in America.” Sandusky has also appeared on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, BBQ Brawl, and Beat Bobby Flay, as well as Project Fire on PBS.

For the Smoke & Kettle concept, the Sanduskys started small in February, promising comfortable meals and great bar food, with a menu including their own recipes for catfish, cod, and shrimp, along with Southern influences. “This restaurant concept is designed to be fun and simple,” says Sandusky. “Great approachable bar food with personality. I want to take this opportunity to connect with the locals in a new way, and make some new friends.”

Both locations previously used outside vendors to operate their popular fish fries on Fridays during Lent but had experienced high turnover in recent years, so the new arrangement allows the Sanduskys to expand their reach and for the fraternal organizations to bring a well-known restaurateur to patrons.

“Opening restaurants in already-established family taverns gives us access to built-in clientele, banquet space, and the room to be creative in ways we’ve previously been limited,” Sandusky says.

KC Club & Event Center bar manager Brad Casson describes the food, team, and service as second to none. “The way David operates is impressive,” says Casson. “He’s a magician, a perfectionist, and a professional in every sense. Just to watch his team at work has been amazing. We know what he brings to the table.”

Sandusky credits his staff’s “hustle, grit, and leadership” for their ability to forge ahead following the pandemic. “My staff is incredible,” says Sandusky. “We’re successful because of them. I am nothing without them. They continue to be as hell-bent on quality and consistency as we’ve always been. We’re only going to get better.”

For more information, visit and Smoke & Kettle’s Facebook page.

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