When Josh Stoneking, co-owner and operator of 317 BBQ, got wind that a commercial space in Broad Ripple, formerly occupied by BurgerFuel, was available last year, he recognized a chance to do something special.
“We knew we could execute and do well in that space,” Stoneking says. “It was great timing to get that space, and we said why not.”
Toward the end of 2019, Stoneking had a conversation with Bill Ficca, another 317 BBQ co-owner, who remarked that the BurgerFuel spot would make for a perfect barbecue location. Stoneking is no stranger to the barbecue game, having spent a good deal of time in front of a smoker and even won a State Fair barbecue championship.
“That was the end of that conversation, but then at the end of last May after COVID hit, BurgerFuel went out of business, and when Billy told me, I reminded him of when we talked about barbecue,” Stoneking says. “I ran a private chef business for the past four years and still loosely run it, and wanted something else to do. We thought it was a good idea, and so we put an investment group together.”
317 BBQ officially opened on December 5, and since then they’ve been churning out Texas-style fare like pork, brisket, smoked sausage and more. The sides menu includes slow-cooked green beans, baked beans, deviled potato salad and buttermilk biscuits.
“In Texas, they focus on simple sides, and everybody’s got their version of beans or mac and cheese, and that type of stuff,” Stoneking says. “The main attraction is always the meat though. We don’t feel that we need to do anything bizarre or interesting to the meat, and we just want to keep it simple and make sure that it’s done right and done well. We spend a lot of time on our barbecue, making sure that each rack rib, each brisket, and each shoulder is as perfect as we can get it.”
Patrons have several sauces to choose from as well, including Sweet Heat, 317 Classic BBQ, Kim Bob’s Mustard, All-Purpose, and Vegan Sugar-Free.
Stoneking adds that several menu items are on their way to being customer favorites, particularly the brisket.
“People love the sides,” he adds. “I’ve heard people say it’s the best cornbread they’ve ever had, and they love our biscuits, chocolate chip cookies and banana pudding. Our menu’s not huge, but we put a lot of effort into everything on it. We’re proud of the product.”
317 BBQ is open for dine-in, as well as curbside pickup (18 parking spots are available), carry-out and delivery. The business also offers catering for a minimum of 15 people. Visit the official website for additional details on catering and ordering for curbside service.
“Dine-in has been slow to build, and the majority of our orders are still curbside and carry-out,” Stoneking says. “We anticipate that changing soon. COVID has added some complexities, but we’re trying to adjust.”
The owners are excited to have launched the concept amidst what they feel is a resurgence of sorts for the midtown area.
“The building itself was really the attraction – there aren’t a lot of places like this where there’s already a restaurant built out, and you have the garage space and the parking lot,” Stoneking says. “It’s one of the few parking lots in the heart of Broad Ripple. Also, I do believe there’s something special happening in Broad Ripple, and we’ve had some high-end apartments go in, and some cool businesses go in. I think what we’re going to start seeing is a shift in the Broad Ripple culture, with new businesses and restaurants going in along with the great restaurants that have been here a long time.”
Stoneking adds that the 317 BBQ team’s attention to detail, as well as his own smoking methods, both help to make the menu items distinct.
“I’ve been an executive chef for 17 years and have never owned and operated a barbecue restaurant,” he says. “I do barbecue the only way I know how, which is carefully and slow. A lot of places use controlled smokers where they can set it up and forget about it while it’s cooking, with wood chips or pellets. I can always taste it in the barbecue when meat is smoked with pellets and chips, and things like that. We use local firewood like hickory and oak that is DNR-approved, and get a really clean smoke off of it.”
317 BBQ is located at 6320 Guilford Avenue in Indianapolis. For more info, including a menu and an ordering page for curbside service or carry-out, visit 317bbq.com. You can also call the restaurant at 317-744-0025.