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St. Albert sausage restaurant reborn as smokehouse

D’Arcy’s Smokehouse Restaurant owner says rebrand, new menu have attracted plenty of customers

The wood design flourishes, picnic tables and large chalkboard menus at D’Arcy’s Smokehouse Restaurant will be familiar to anyone who stopped by for a bite at Links Woodfire Sausage Co.

Aside from some minor tweaks, the space is identical to Links — as are the location, ownership and some of the staff.  

What has changed in a major way is the menu.

In place of European-style sausages are smoked brisket, pulled pork and St. Lous-style ribs with sides of pit (baked) beans, mac and cheese, corn bread and street corn.

“People really seemed to like the [Links] concept, but it never did well financially,” said Kyle Iseke, the restaurant’s owner and owner of D’Arcy’s Meat Market.

Part of the restaurant’s struggle could be attributed to the pandemic. Links opened shortly before COVID-19 forced restaurants to close in-person dining.

Iseke expected sales to pick up once restrictions eased, but to his surprise, business slowed down. Prospective customers may have been unfamiliar with the style of the sausages at Links, he said, but it’s also likely they weren’t coming because of food-price inflation.

“We changed it to the smokehouse, thinking, 'Let's go out on a limb here and make a more affordable menu, and maybe a different menu that people might enjoy more,'” he said.

So far, it has paid off. The restaurant, which opened in October in the Campbell Business Park, is five to six times busier than Links, according to Iseke.

"It certainly feels like it has a good chance of success now with the concept change,” he said.

He leveraged the restaurant’s connection to D’Arcy’s Meat Market to keep costs relatively low for a joint that’s heavy on meat. A beef brisket sandwich with a side costs $16. It’s $15 for a pulled pork sandwich with side, and the portions are generous.

The changes took quite a bit of brainstorming, Iseke said.

“A lot of people said, ‘Darcy has a good reputation. It's been in town a long time, and people love it,’” he said. From a branding perspective, it made sense to keep D’Arcy’s in the name.

Iseke hopes that D’Arcy’s Smokehouse Restaurant offers St. Albertans quality food at a fair price, fills the city’s BBQ restaurant void and helps with the lack of food options in the Campbell Business Park.

His philosophy when he opened Links was to showcase the sausages that were popular at D’Arcy’s Meat Market, and he still wants to introduce new customers to D’Arcy’s products.

But a major reason Iseke decided to rebrand instead of closing is because he didn’t want to lose chef Jose Martinez.

Martinez was a D’Arcy’s employee at the time Links opened. He created the recipes for many of the side dishes at D’Arcy’s Smokehouse, and together with Iseke, he tested numerous barbecue techniques before settling on the right style for the new restaurant.

Originally from Toluca, Mexico, Martinez started baking bread and pizza at five years old, and at 10, the first time he cooked by himself, he made rabbit in an aioli sauce with honey. On the side, he works as a private chef for his own business, Jozecito’s Cuisine.

He fell in love with cooking shows as a kid, and has worked in restaurants across North America. He especially loves cooking Asian foods — Japanese in particular — and Mexican cuisine.

“We make a specials every two weeks,” Martinez said. “I can make any kind of special. For example, last time we made tacos. It was so popular … I am thinking we make the next special something Mexican, something Asian, something Italian, but always using the smoked meats.”

The restaurant’s most popular item is currently the beef brisket. Martinez’s favourite, however, is the pulled pork.

How does he think D’Arcy’s Smokehouse Restaurant compares to Links?

“People like this place more,” he said. “We're busier than Links. People like that we have many different options for sides. A bigger portion of meat, and it’s cheaper. More value for the money. Very quality for what you're paying.”

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