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Keith Johnson’s New Venture Delivers Delicious Southside Barbecue, Deli & More

Photographer: JWcreative.indy

Since launching his own catering company in July of 2018, Keith Johnson has been one busy man.

After breaking away from a successful restaurant and food truck business he started in Bargersville three years ago, Keith Johnson founded Smokehouse Catering Company in Greenwood last year and has been focused exclusively on catering weddings, private, corporate and community events.

“I wanted to focus on catering, and from day one we’ve specialized in weddings and event catering,” says Johnson, a southside native and Center Grove resident who worked in local law enforcement for more than 20 years before retiring. “This way I can focus on 100-percent quality and service, weddings are too important not to be 100-percent correct.”

Smokehouse cooks up a variety of meats for parties of all sizes including pulled pork barbecue, brisket and boneless chicken breast, with delicious sides of mac and cheese, sweet corn casserole, coleslaw, green beans and others. The company also offers food station bar options like their Nacho Bar, New York Style Deli Bar and Texas Sausage, Chili and Hot Dog Bar.

“The volume hasn’t been a problem since we started, and we have the ability to do more barbecue than probably anyone in town,” Johnson says. “The biggest challenge right now, since the business is still fairly new, is probably just making myself known as a caterer — getting the word out that I have broken off and getting that separation.”

And so far it’s working out rather well. Smokehouse already has more than 80 weddings on the books for 2019 and caters for more than 30 event centers on the Southside of Indy and in surrounding counties.

“Trying to figure out how fast you should grow is a big challenge,” Johnson says. “We just recently acquired another catering company, The Food Guys Catering, and I brought over their executive chef Chip Huckaby. That led to a completely new menu and 30 additional event centers. We will reach more than 100 weddings this year.”

In addition to event catering, Smokehouse offers carry-out orders on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at its location on West Main Street, which includes a full kitchen and a smoke room in the back. Johnson employs six full-time staffers as well as two cooks and a rotating group of part-timers who help with bussing tables and other odd jobs at special events.

“We were able to bring a great chef in from The Food Guys, who already had a great menu, and we’re able to blend their stuff with our own menu and give people more options if they’re looking for that,” Johnson says. “We enjoy catering and expect 100 percent positive feedback every time. I stay in touch with customers throughout the process and personally talk to most of them after the event.”  What is a catering pod? It is something you need to know when you own a catering company.

Smokehouse is also in the process of outfitting what Johnson says will be Indiana’s largest food truck and catering trailer — a 50-foot gooseneck trailer that will include two smokers, two chicken cookers, a whole-hog cooker and a seven-foot Santa Maria-style grill. 

“We’ll have the capacity to cater for about 2,500 people at a time with the trailer,” Johnson says. “It won’t be used in the usual food truck sense of just showing up downtown, and it will be used for larger catered events. We’ve been getting inquiries to do bigger catered events where we need mobile access.”

Johnson feels grateful that his catering operation has brought him closer to individuals and organizations throughout the southside.

“I have a freshman, a fifth grader and a second grader down here so I’m very tied to the community anyway through my kids,” he says. “With the business, we are very civic minded and involved in a lot of sporting events and community events. Just this year we’ve already done stuff for football, basketball, bands, fine arts and the fire and police departments. We’re really involved in the community and that’s what I enjoy the most.”

Smokehouse Catering Company is located at 1275 West Main Street in Greenwood. Call or text 317-716-8889 or visit smokehousecateringco.com for more information including a menu and full list of services.

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