Jared Wolfe’s original plan was to call his barbecue pit Lone Wolfe. That, he quickly came to feel, would be living a lie.
“I didn’t feel like it was a good fit, to be honest,” he says. “I definitely learned I cannot do this myself, and I’ve built a team around me. It’s not a small feat to try and do this. I’ve learned that if I didn’t have the support I do, there’s no way I could do this.”
And so the solitary Lone Wolfe evolved into the more humble and cooperative Wolfepack BBQ, a just-launched barbecue operation at the massive new Callsign Brewing space on Burlington Street in North Kansas City. It’s a live-fire pit where prime Creekstone brisket and heritage-breed pork will be cooked over oak and hickory, with no gas assist. Wolfe’s operation is in the pop-up phase now, but it will expand into a standing space soon—Wolfe is building his own thousand-gallon offset smoker from an old propane tank.
Wolfe is thirty-two and a lifelong resident of Platte City, north of the airport. In his mid-twenties, he was working as a salesman for an automation company, which meant being on the road all the time. “It took a toll on me,” he says. “I had to make a decision. I figured I’m young enough now; I’m going to chase my passion for the next three or four years.”
That meant barbecue, which he’d learned about by hanging out with buddies on the competition scene and doing a little judging.
He found himself adapting his sales gig to his passion by targeting clients in the barbecue belt. His conversion came from a spot you don’t hear mentioned much by fellow craft barbecue, the charcoal-grilled racks at Rendezvous in Memphis.
“I was a rib guy,” he says. “I hated Kansas City brisket. It was shaved and always dry to me—I just didn’t like it growing up.”
After being bit by the ’cue bug, Wolfe took a job as the pitmaster at Scott’s Kitchen near the airport, one of the region’s elite but oft-overlooked spots. He worked at Jousting Pigs, too, then moved on to help at Fox & Fire, which was at Callsign for years before moving up to Kearny early last fall. If that sounds like a lot of pitmasters swapping spaces and knowledge, it’s because that’s how Wolfe sees “the new wave” of barbecue going.
“It’s almost becoming like the beer scene,” he says. “Everyone’s helping everyone else.”
Callsign Brewing just moved into a massive new 33,000-square-foot space, where there will eventually be two food spots. Wolfepack will be on the sell-out model and make only what they know they can serve fresh. Presently, they’re operating as a pop-up with inside seating in the brewery. Look for a proper restaurant operation open inside the brewery sometime this summer: They’re shooting for May or June, but given delays in everything right now, it might be the Fourth of July.
At Wolfepack, you can expect house-made pickles and sauce and a steady stream of innovative ’cue-based cuisine. Among the offerings planned are potstickers, pot pie and Wagyu hot dogs from KC Cattle Co.
“There are twenty different ways to make a potato salad—why not have some fun?” Wolfe says. “We’re going to keep pumping out fresh stuff, and we’re going to have fun with it. We want it to be an experience every time.”
Martin Cizmar is the editor of Kansas City magazine.
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