Bett & Bev’s to expand beyond Jefferson
By ANDREW MCGINN
Adam Glawe is going to look good someday in a white linen suit with a black string tie.
At 37, though, he still has a few years before he’ll be able to officially sport a snow-white goatee.
But after 10 years in business as owner of the local barbecue joint Bett & Bev’s — already more than double the median lifespan of a small restaurant — the lifelong Greene County resident is dropping the F word.
Like Col. Sanders before him, Glawe is convinced that what he has — and how fast he serves it — deserves to be shared beyond Jefferson.
“I keep waiting for the guy to walk in with a briefcase full of money who says, ‘I want to open this everywhere,’ ” Glawe joked.
Short of that, Bett & Bev’s is eyeing Perry as the site of its first franchise restaurant.
“After 10 years,” he explained, “it’s a natural move.”
Longtime employee Kyle Roeder, who’s been slinging barbecue since his high school days for Glawe, hopes to open his Perry franchise in the spring.
“It’s going to be his baby,” Glawe said, “but it’s still going to be Bett & Bev’s. The same general idea.”
More than anything else, Roeder, who recently graduated from Drake University with a degree in music, has Glawe’s trust.
“He’s worked for me long enough he’s like a brother,” Glawe said. “It’s a family thing.”
A 2013 graduate of Greene County High School, Roeder concluded that a career in opera is fraught with too much stress and not enough pay to bother pursuing. A baritone, Roeder already had performed with the Des Moines Metro Opera.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the stage — he began to long more for pulled pork than Puccini.
“There’s a sense of family in the shop,” Roeder said. “There’s something to be said about coming back to family.”
Roeder essentially wants to copy Glawe’s business model, and why wouldn’t he?
In Glawe’s first 10 years of business in a building still remembered as a Pizza Hut, Bett & Bev’s has emerged as a lunchtime destination — so much so that the city of Jefferson built an overpass over top of him and it had no impact on business.
“We try to accommodate the working man who only has limited time to eat,” said Glawe, a 1999 graduate of East Greene High School whose family farms in the Dana area.
“People come here for a reason,” he added.
That speed means a customer’s order is likely sitting there on the counter before the credit card reader even spits out a receipt.
“We try to keep it simple and fast,” he said.
Someone once called and asked what he had for entertainment.
“We have food,” Glawe replied. “That’s entertaining enough.”
Glawe, who moved into his year-round building in 2008 after five years with a mobile trailer, said his simple menu and limited hours are in keeping with barbecue joints throughout the South in small towns.
One of his favorite comments from a customer will forever be, “This is the best barbecue this side of the Mississippi, just ’cause I’ve never been on the other side.”
Even after 10 years in a permanent location, though, Glawe still finds himself answering some of the same questions.
A frip, just so you know, is a French-fried potato chip, which he serves as a side and as the bed for his frip pie, layered with pulled pork, his special baked bean recipe and coleslaw.
And, no, he’s neither Bett nor Bev — they were his grandmothers, Betty Mae Johnston and Beverly Glawe, both born and raised in Greene County.
“Nothing with my name sounded that clever,” Glawe said. “I wanted something that sounded like home.”
What arguably sets Bett & Bev’s apart from other barbecue restaurants is its true sense of rural Iowa, complete with decor that includes framed seed sacks and ag-themed wood carvings by Bagley farmer Kent Bates.
“Barbecue places in Iowa think they have to be Texas barbecue,” Glawe said.
Glawe proudly serves what he calls “Iowa style” barbecue, which means he doesn’t have to pretend to be a Texas cowboy or even an Ozark hillbilly.
Why Iowa doesn’t have a better reputation for barbecue is maybe the ultimate question, considering the state produces more pork than any other in the U.S.
Texas is actually 14th on the list of top pork-producing states, while other barbecue hot spots are ranked in second place (North Carolina), seventh (Missouri) and 21st (Tennessee).
“Iowa has the best meat in the world,” Glawe said. “It has to be the meat that’s front and center.”