Kent Heuser stands next to his smoker outside Ray Rae's Rib Shack, a recently opened barbecue restaurant on north U.S. 63.

Local fans of Kansas City style barbecue have a new option for a place to get a plate with a choice of a variety of meats.

Owned and operated by new Houston resident Kent Heuser, Ray Rae’s Rib Shack began serving customers last Friday at its location on U.S. 63 just north of town. Heuser is no newcomer to the barbecue business, as he ran helped his father and mother run the original Ray Rae’s for seven years in the Kansas City suburb of Pleasant Hill.

“We’re not just somebody who’s been cooking in the backyard and then jumps into a restaurant,” he said. “We’ve got quite a bit of experience cooking commercially.”

While working at the first Ray Rae’s (named after Heuser’s father Ray and sister Rae Ann), it wasn’t unusual for Heuser and company to do large catering jobs, like during the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing event in nearby Topeka, or for professional bull rider Lane Frost.

“We have people drive hundreds of miles to go there,” Heuser said. “We’ve even had them come from New England. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but when it comes to the cooking and barbecuing, we know what we’re doing.”

Heuser (who recently moved to Houston to be near his fiancé, and also has relatives in the Bucyrus area) said he got his start in cooking barbecue on a serious level by entering competitions.

“Then my dad wanted to retire from John Deere,” he said, “so we started the restaurant.”

Ray Rae’s offers barbecue meals with beef, pork, ham or turkey. Heuser and crew make their own cured and smoked bacon, and their own Cajun sausage from a 100-year-old recipe.

“We just started making sauce, too,” Heuser said, “and we put our own special rub on everything we cook, besides the turkey and ham. Our pork and brisket will just fall apart, and we use very good quality ham.”

All the meats are cooked over hickory wood. Heuser considers brisket as Ray Rae’s specialty.

“We go through 4-to-500 pounds of brisket a week up there,” he said. “It’s real tender, and it’s not fat. Some places will cook it and it has the fat on it. We don’t use the whole brisket, we only use the flats – the good, clean cut of the brisket. It’s quality stuff.”

A long-time resident of Harrisonville (near Kansas City), Heuser is an avid outdoorsman. He owns a 10,000 acre tract in the Pleasant Hill area where his sons help him run a guided duck and geese hunting business, and he frequently appears on the Outdoor Channel’s “Migration Nation” program. He’s also an award winning turkey call maker, placing third in the decorative box call category at the 2012 National Wild Turkey Federation world championship.

After graduating from high school, Heuser worked for years as a meat cutter in a slaughterhouse. His background also includes working as a union meat cutter in a grocery chain.

“I’ve been from the barn all the way through,” Heuser said. “I can take beef from the field and take it down to all the cuts.”

Ray Rae’s is equipped with easy pull-through access for RVs and big-rigs, and offers bulk meat by the pound.

“People who come here can expect good quality food and consistent food,” Heuser said. “Everything is cooked like what we’d cook for ourselves at home.”

Ray Rae’s is open Thursdays through Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Heuser expects to also be open Sundays beginning in the near future). The phone number is 417-967-8008.

Ray Rae’s Rib Shack wed address:

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