Leadership of a Bold New Era in Martin City Stays in the Family.
An extraordinary remodel, a classic menu, and a new General Manager renewing a family’s promise to the community where Jack Stack Barbecue first caught fire.
“An exceptional experience has always been our priority,” says Taylor Dorman, grandson of founder Jack Fiorella (pictured above). “We’re more devoted than ever to making sure you leave Jack Stack Martin City feeling better than when you walked in.”
Nearly a half-century after the legendary barbecue brand first opened its doors in Martin City, Jack Stack has positioned itself for the next half-century. Dorman is rolling out the red carpet with daily specials for a week celebrating the relaunch of the location that sparked the business and carried it through its first two decades.
“This is where it really started,” says Dorman, standing outside where the famous bull sculpture keeps watch. “We’re up to five locations now and Martin City has pretty much been the engine that’s powered all of it and made Jack Stack the symbol of local barbecue.”
Jack Stack opened back in 1974 and Martin City remained the only location until Overland Park’s Jack Stack came online in the 1990s. Locations now also include the Freight House just behind Union Station, the Country Club Plaza, and Lee’s Summit. But Dorman says it’s Martin City where his family proved they had something special.
“The distinct style of our food and our culture was born in Martin City. Our employees and our guests drive the Jack Stack experience. We’re all family here and share the same values rooted in family and community. It’s as important to Jack Stack as our smokers and hickory wood.”
You can bet those smokers were working overtime on Monday when Jack Stack cut the ribbon and threw open its doors to a hungry crowd excited to see the results of the remodeling project.
A Taste of the Future at 135th Street & Holmes Road
For the past five years, Jack Stack management has worked closely with longtime Martin City business friend Pearce Construction to perfect a remodel that modernizes the restaurant and gives both customers and staff more space to stretch out. Frequent visitors will immediately notice changes in the layout. It’s been carefully redesigned for easier movement throughout the restaurant and more efficient dine-in and carry-out services.
As you find your way around, you can’t miss the stunning new dining room and a new bar rich in Jack Stack elegance. Plus, there’s patio seating for the first time. “You’re really going to want to check out the new bar,” says Dorman. “We’ve invested in making it a special experience all by itself. There are beer flights, whiskey flights, an excellent array of wines — the works.”
Dorman is quick to point out the restaurant has not been completely reinvented. You’ll see plenty of nods to Jack Stack’s history throughout the new space. Of course, Jack Stack’s history is anchored in family history, so portraits of Jack Fiorella and his family are a theme along the walls. The collection includes a picture of his daughter Jennifer and her husband Case Dorman, Taylor Dorman’s parents, whom Jack passed the family business to over a decade ago.
Beyond family photos, there’s other Jack Stack nostalgia, like the original stained glass, those whimsical pig etchings, and the old hickory wood sign. You can’t see the pit and smokers from the dining area, but you’ll be happy to know they’re still there and will continue to be the foundation of Jack Stack’s trademark barbecue style. The rest of the kitchen has been dramatically changed to accommodate today’s demands, long after outgrowing the limits of the original 1974 kitchen.
“Everything is just such a great mix of old and new,” says Dorman with pride. “We’re in a much better position to give our guests the food they love, whether that’s dine-in, takeout, or at the curb while at the same time bringing forward a lot of the elements that have made Jack Stack what it is today and tell our story.”
A Family Business Flourishes
Taylor Dorman’s ascent to the General Manager role in Martin City continues a family tradition that goes back to 1957 when his great grandfather, Russ, started Smoke Stack BBQ. Russ’s oldest son, Jack, brought it to Martin City in 1974 and made it Jack Stack. Dorman grew up in a world of barbecue, witnessing all the tell-tale signs of a pioneering restaurant business built on sweat and passion. He’s never known a life without Jack Stack and treasures all the memories.
“I remember coming to Martin City as a kid with my Mom and brother, watching the work. My Dad would let us watch everything so we could see how people at Jack Stack do their jobs and what it takes to go above and beyond. I can remember my grandpa doing paperwork in his office and not enjoying that part at all! He’s just not an office guy. He always liked being out in the restaurant making sure it was at its best. And he was tough. I remember that, too.”
Dorman helped out as a teenager but went in another direction after college. He worked in financial services for several years before the family business began to tug at his heart. He decided to abandon the corporate world for a life of hard restaurant work because it put him closer to people and making an impact.
“The job is hard as hell but I love it. I feel like I’m making a difference every day. We’re all making a difference and the rewards are constant. This business is a reflection of my family and our values and that’s important to me. We want to serve people, take some weight off their shoulders and give them something special. That’s an opportunity that offers so much more than what I used to do.”
Diving into the family business wasn’t easy. Dorman put himself through grueling Jack Stack management training that hit him hard with the difficult realities of running a demanding restaurant. All of the education was first-hand. “I don’t think you know what Jack Stack Barbecue is really all about until you do things like work a 4 am shift throwing briskets in the pit.”
Dorman went from training to kitchen management involving some of the hardest, hottest work you can do at a restaurant. When the pandemic struck and paralyzed restaurants across the country, he shifted some of his attention to grocery stores, helping to strengthen them as key points of distribution for Jack Stack favorites. And just a few weeks ago, he was named to the top management position in Martin City.
“I’m just so honored and grateful,” says the new GM, standing in a kitchen uniform stained by the day’s work. “You know, there’s no going back to ‘normal’ after this pandemic and we wouldn’t want to anyway. We’re always looking for ways to adapt our business for the circumstances, the people, and the times. I’m excited to help lead that effort and guide it in Martin City.”
The Secret Sauce
Barbecue is as much a part of Kansas City as rivers and train tracks. Restaurant after restaurant claims to offer the ‘best’ barbecue and the competition is extremely tough. Somehow, Jack Stack is always at the forefront. We asked Dorman, why exactly is that?
“We’re always improving,” he says, without missing a beat. “We make today better than yesterday at Jack Stack and tomorrow will be even better. That’s how we do it. We don’t sit back and ride the success of our homemade recipes. We are always evolving the business but also staying true to values that never change. We’re motivated by watching our employees and our guests get more from the experience.”
As for the food itself, Dorman says Jack Stack remains committed to traditional methods that require careful attention and a seasoned sense of timing. When you’ve been doing barbecue this way for this long, it becomes an art, and Jack Stack knows they have just the right touch.
“You have to be extremely knowledgeable about how it all comes together. Everything from the meat to the sides must be done exactly right to ensure consistency. And consistency is really important to us. Every bite delivers so much of what makes Jack Stack great.”
And a newly remodeled restaurant delivers the rest. Dorman says Jack Stack Martin City is now spiced with all the right amenities to smoke out a world-class experience that raises the barbecue bar. “It’s interesting, people look at the remodel as a culmination of some sort. But we feel like we’re just getting started. Jack stack is a wonderful business right now, but we’re only in the third inning. The future is full of possibilities.”
Martin City itself is also full of possibilities as our renaissance blossoms alongside the barbecue giant and other restaurant icons that make our neighborhood a magnet for visitors. It’s true, there’s no place like home, and Dorman believes regardless of where you’re from, coming to Martin City feels like coming home.
“Martin City is sort of a crossroads for many people. They drive through and stop to check out a restaurant or some other business and immediately get the feeling that they’re ‘home.’ In other parts of Kansas City, you stop, do whatever you need to do, and then move on. You don’t give much thought to the neighborhood you’re in. It’s different in Martin City. You can’t help but notice there’s a really comfortable, familiar feeling here.”
It’s a feeling that only gets stronger with diversity, in Dorman’s view. He notes the added appeal and personality brought by a variety of new businesses ranging from the glossy profile of Fishtech to the gourmet burgers in Ramsey’s drive-thru. “Restaurants and other businesses in Martin City are creating experiences every day. They are not just idling on autopilot. They are actively engaged with the community and doing new things, and doing them better. I think that’s the difference here.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Taylor. All of us in Martin City wish you and Jack Stack Barbecue all the best as you take the bull by the horns and charge into the future. You can always count on the Martin City community to stick with you, Cheesy Corn Bake and all.