After 14 years of journeying to Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack to enjoy their signature sauces, barbecue fans can now bring bottles of those sauces home.
“We’ve been working on this for about a year and a half,” co-owner Jack Piper told Little Village.
Unlike some barbecue restaurants that outsource their bottling operations, Piper and his partner James Adrian are doing everything in house, from making the sauces the same way they do for the restaurants to labeling the bottles.
“Everything is done by hand. I actually just finished putting labels on 120 bottles with our little hand-cranked machine,” Piper said during a phone interview last week.
There are four sauces — Original, Cowboy, Carolina Mustard and Chicago Fire — all of which are variations on traditional barbecue sauces created by Adrian, a classically trained chef. Piper, who has a background in three-dimensional art, oversaw the design and the packaging.
“All these sauces are small-batch, but that’s what we’ve always done,” Piper said. “But there’s a lot that was new to us — bar codes, having it FDA approved. There was a big learning curve. To bring a product that’s shelf-stable to market is a long process.”
One decision the partners had to make was the price of the products. Original and Cowboy sell for $4.99 a bottle, and Carolina Mustard and Chicago Fire are $5.99.
Adrian and Piper have been friends since high school, and partners on the Iowa City restaurant scene for 20 years. They opened Atlas downtown in 2000 (they sold the restaurant in 2017, and it has since become Saint Burch Tavern), then debuted the first Jimmy Jack’s on the east side in 2005. In 2011, Adrian and Piper opened Basta, in collaboration with Chef Brady McDonald, who had worked with the pair at Atlas.
The bottles of sauce are only available at Jimmy Jack’s two locations in Iowa City and North Liberty. Piper said that at some point in the future, they might consider selling their sauce in supermarkets, but there are no plans to do that at the moment.
“We really don’t know where this is going,” Piper said. “We’ll listen to our customers. That’s how James and I usually make decisions.”