New Business: Sugarfire Smoke House Aims For Success In Olivette

Local restaurateur Mike Johnson has experience in University City, Clayton and Maplewood.

There's a new kid on the block in the Olivette restaurant scene. Sugar Fire Smoke House opened last week at 9200 Olive Boulevard. The new restaurant in the former Dickie's BBQ space near the I-170 is the brainchild of Mike Johnson and Carolyn Downs. Johnson is the former owner of Boogaloo in Maplewood, Barcelona in Clayton, Momo's in University City and Cyrano's Cafe in Webster Groves, among others.

Sugar Fire is a mix of the barbecue world, along with burgers and vegetarian options, as well as the sweet side, with Downs' desserts. Johnson purchased a smoker cooker two years ago and said he spent the last six months after selling Boogaloo around the first of the year honing his technique, traveling to Texas, Memphis and elsewhere.

He's getting used to the open kitchen approach. “It’s not like you order something and something magically appears five minutes later. You can see something getting handled right in front of you, there’s no hiding anything.”

Johnson said his study leading up to opening included time training with Myron Mixon, a BBQ chef featured on cable in TLC's BBQ Pitmasters. He said he spent a week at Mixon's home in Georgia with Downs' husband learning at the feet of the master.

Johnson said people have asked him if the restaurant is part of a chain. The answer is no, and doesn't figure to change anytime soon. He credits the inquiries to the design work done by Joe Lemaster to create the restaurant's signage.


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