Mosley owner Sean Keller with his barbecue in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
Pork butts rested on a grill in a barbecue pit at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, Jan.5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa, Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
Cubano with pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, dill pickle on a Cuban bread at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
NORTH LIBERTY – At Mosley’s Barbecue and Provisions, you’ll find lots of smoke, but no mirrors. In a new Iowa barbecue tradition that owner Sean Keller has perfected over the past 10 years, secrecy is not part of the recipe.
“There’s that aura of mystery, that shroud around the barbecue, and it’s such crap,” Keller said. “If you want to stay by a fire for 15 hours, go ahead, because I don’t buy into any such secrecy.”
Putting his money where his mouth is, Keller first released his brisket rub recipe to The Gazette.
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup of black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
1 tbsp. + 1 pinch of smoked bittersweet paprika
The barbecue pit where all the magic happens might not be glamorous. But, perhaps much to the dismay of anti-smoking campaigns, it still looks pretty cool.
Lighting the flame
Into the Pit is the product of an obsession that Keller began to dabble in over 20 years ago and has actively worked to perfect for the past decade – something very simple that he said he has very well. do.
But make no mistake: “It’s very simple, but not easy,” he said.
After experiencing an explosion of barbecue flavors for the first time in South Carolina as a teenager, Keller, now 42, pursues an art form he has perfected for himself without emulating others.
“Growing up, the barbecue was like a drum stick on a Weber propane grill with KC Masterpiece burnt on it,” he said. “So having a real barbecue with all the contrast in textures and flavors blew me away. He never left me.
Or: 525 S. Gilbert St. in Iowa City; 125 E. Zeller St. in North Liberty
Hours: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends in Iowa City; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at North Liberty
Call: (319) 338-1419 in Iowa City; (319) 626-4227 at North Liberty
Details: In addition to a variety of traditional barbecue foods, Mosley’s has recently expanded into new Cuban sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads and more.
Make the Iowan
While looking for a taste of his own home, Keller wanted to do more than bring styles from other states to Iowa. He wanted Iowa to establish its own barbecue tradition, which he lacked.
“The barbecue is a product of scarcity. When you have a pig and a lot of people, you cook the whole pork and take every piece of pork out of that pork, ”he said. “Here in Iowa we have more pigs than humans. So we remove the tenderloin, we tender it, we fry it for a sandwich.
Barbecue is America’s story in a food, Keller said, with reflections of immigration patterns, economic growth, racial demographics, and agricultural trends over the centuries. South Carolina’s style is influenced by the mustard and vinegar preferences of German immigrants, for example. The Texas style of breast was shaped by cattle brought in by the Spanish.
But in a new tradition that Keller brings to Mosley’s, what defines Iowa barbecue? Sourcing mainly from farm to table, less common use of Duroc pork, and a process that lets the pork flavor speak for itself. While Keller didn’t set out to create an Iowa style, the end result is inherently Iowa.
“It really came from an idea in my mind of what I wanted,” he said. “I was chasing the barbecue I wanted to eat. It sort of transcended regions at this point. “
Turns out he wasn’t the only one who wanted to eat it. The first Mosley’s opened in Iowa City in 2015, followed by a second location in North Liberty in 2018.
Bring all the smoke
Mosley’s smoked meats are the product of 100 percent hickory smoke, made possible by wood from the nearby family farm of Matt Kroul, University of Iowa defensive forward from 2004-2008. The Choice Hickory wood alone without the aid of heat from other sources, which can speed up the process, is a unique choice at Mosley.
Although this choice is the result of an intense love for this art form which is more than a method of cooking, hickory is what gives it the taste of Keller.
“We’re the only place in the state of Iowa that I’m aware of that’s starting to end up over a walnut fire,” Keller said. “We watch it all night, no matter what.”
When Mosley’s started in 2015, Keller slept in a cot inside the restaurant until others were trained to work with the pit. But that’s not the only sign of his dedication.
It took being a youth football coach – which requires a fingerprint background check – for Keller to realize he didn’t really have fingerprints anymore, thanks to the hot stuff he has been handling for decades.
“They are practically gone,” he said.
The cooking method isn’t the most convenient, but Keller said he wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“If a fire code prevented me from doing it, I wouldn’t have a restaurant,” he said.
Back to basics
After years of “a lot of bad food” through trial and error, Keller has reduced barbecuing to the basics in a way that doesn’t require too potent sauces to enjoy.
With just a basic brine on the butts, the pork doesn’t rely on injections or over-seasoning. Keller didn’t want it to be too sweet either.
Duroc pork, which is much darker and more expensive than the standard pork used in many restaurants, offers more fat and marbling for a richer flavor. The ribs are smoked for four hours; butts are smoked for at least 12.
“Protein is the star of the show. I want the pork to shine through, ”he said.
But on the table in the supporting roles, several daring sauces: hot sauce, Red Rib, Gold Standard and M14. Each offers something for everyone, from crisp and tangy or saccharine to peppery, mustard-influenced or spicy.
The sides feature the iconic Mason glass jars of homemade smoked bacon and mac and cheese topped with bacon. Now Mosley’s also offers a variety of new options on the a la carte menu, including Cuban sandwiches, burgers, salads and pizza.
A new audience for a new kind of food
Most first-time diners at Mosley’s either have no barbecue experience or have preconceived notions of what barbecue should be due to how little experience they have, Keller said. Nevertheless, they have proven to be receptive to new ideas.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring this new style of food and experience to people who otherwise won’t get it,” he said.
Although he’s been in restaurants most of his life, Mosley’s is the first he owns, partnering with Matt Swift. But more than a restaurant owner, he has forged a new style for himself.
“If the ingredients and the process originated in the state of Iowa, then the barbecue produced must also originate in Iowa,” he said.
A neon sign at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
A sign describing the barbecue sauces available at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
Wood is burning in a barbecue hearth at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa, Wednesday, Jan.5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
Macaroni & Cheese Pizza with House Mac & Cheese, Bacon & Parmesan at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
Southwestern salad with mesclun, pickled red onion and jalapeño, crispy chicken croutons, egg, tortilla strips, and southwestern ranch at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette )
Mosley’s Burger with two patties, American cottage cheese, housemate bacon jam, Mosley’s Burger sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion and homemade pickles at Mosley’s in North Liberty, Iowa on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
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