Dining With Denise Neil

Popular Wichita barbecue buffet re-imagines itself as a dinner, nightlife destination

Tour the all new B&C BBQ Pub and Grill

B&C Barbecue owner Carey Maurer has been working on a major overhaul of his restaurant for two years.
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B&C Barbecue owner Carey Maurer has been working on a major overhaul of his restaurant for two years.

B&C Creations first opened in 1996 as an artsy gift boutique.

But a couple of years in, owners Bob and Carol Maurer added something that made the business at 355 N. Washington a bit of a talker in the restaurant community: a barbecue lunch buffet hidden in the back.

Since then, the gift shop has closed, but the restaurant’s following has grown and grown. B&C’s lunch buffet today is one of Old Town’s biggest lunchtime draws.

Now owner Carey Maurer — whose parents both died in 2006 — is about to unveil a whole new identity for the business. Over the past two years, he’s slowly remodeled and added on to the restaurant, all without ever closing. And he’s about to reintroduce the business as an Old Town destination that will be open for both lunch and dinner and will offer a full-service bar, an indoor/outdoor patio with retractable garage doors, and live music in the evenings.

The restaurant has been renamed B&C BBQ Pub & Grill.

The reasons for the change are many, Maurer said, but the main one had to do with demographics. B&C has easily attracted large groups of hungry men to its lunch buffet over the years, but Maurer wanted to find a way to attract more female customers as well.

“We noticed that we don’t have women — it’s 99 percent men in here,” he said. “And we thought, ‘What’s it going to take to get women in here and grow?’ We weren’t growing anymore. We had kind of capped out.”

Maurer decided that the restaurant needed to be more inviting, more visually appealing. And, he said, he realized that new restrooms were in order as well.

To grow the business even more, though, he decided he needed to open at night. Since its opening more than 20 years earlier, B&C had been a lunch-only destination.

And if a restaurant is going to open at night, he said — especially a restaurant in Wichita’s popular Old Town district — it should probably serve adult beverages.

If you haven’t been into B&C in the last year, you’ll be surprised at the transformation. It’s now wide open with all-new tables and chairs. The business can now seat 282, up from its previous 180.

There’s a big new u-shaped bar in the center of the main dining room with bar stools lining it on all sides. The bar is fitted with 14 taps and will also stock bottled and canned beers as well as wine and mixed drinks.

The restaurant’s aesthetic is now cement floors, red brick walls and tall ceilings with exposed duct work. Vintage light fixtures hang from the ceiling, and there are several metal ceiling fans moving the smokey air around.

The restaurant’s signature chandelier, a dramatic light fixture that hung over the original dining room, is back, though in a slightly different spot.

The most eye-catching addition is a large new room off the south side of the building that has retractable garage doors on all sides. Construction started on the room about a year ago, and diners have been using it for the past several months. By spring or summer, an outdoor patio will open off the south side of the new room.

An addition on the south side of B&C Barbecue has retractable doors that can be open in warm-weather months. It will allow the restaurant to have bands in the evenings. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

The buffet is still in the same spot against the west wall of the building, and the food is the same. But Maurer added an all-new serving line as well as a new kitchen. The shiny new restrooms have multiple stalls and the same finishes as the dining room.

Maurer said he plans to start his new evening hours in early February. When he does, B&C will serve food in the evenings, though it won’t be a buffet. He’s starting with a small menu that will offer a few barbecue meals, burgers and appetizers — including one invention he’s pretty excited about: queso dip with rib meat shredded into it.

When the evening hours start, Maurer also will add Sunday hours, so B&C will be open seven days a week.

Longtime customers have been seeing the changes as they happen, and feedback has been positive, Maurer said.

The evening menu will grow as Maurer determines what goes over well, he said, and he’ll adjust his evening hours depending on what the demand is.

Even before the restaurant’s transformation is 100 percent complete, though, Maurer said it’s already achieving its goal.

Each day, more of his tables have female diners sitting at them.

“It’s already helping,” he said.