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Sugarfire Smoke House to Open in Union

Sugarfire Smoke House will open early next year in Union.

It will be the St. Louis-based chain's twelfth location.

C-founder and chef Mike Johnson joined forces with majority owner and operator Jim Schwartz to launch the first local location, dubbed Sugarfire at Union Connection. It will be found just off U.S. 42 within the Kroger Marketplace development.

Schwartz, a native of Kentucky, has lived in the St. Louis area for nearly twenty years as owner of two other franchise businesses, both of which he sold in January to pursue the opportunity to return to his hometown alongside his wife, Lisa, and three children to open a Sugarfire Smoke House.

A fast-casual concept, Sugarfire Smoke House opened its flagship in St. Louis in 2012, and since, Chef Johnson has expanded Sugarfire’s imprint across Missouri to seven locations, including a location within the National Blues Museum, and an extensive catering program. With a background in fine dining, and training under the infamous Emeril Lagasse, chef Johnson created Sugarfire’s menu to reflect a variety of barbecue styles, techniques and influences found throughout the United States. 

Known for its brisket, pulled pork, and ribs, as well as its signature sandwiches and sides, Sugarfire has consistently been ranked best barbecue in St. Louis by local and national publications alike. Additionally, Chef Johnson has served as a celebrity guest pitmaster and competitor in events globally, including Hogs for the Cause, the Perth Yak Ales BBQ Competition, Memphis in May, Australia’s Meatstock, The Kansas City Royal, Charleston Wine & Food Festival, and the World Food Championships.

Chef Johnson has also been featured on a variety of national television shows, including Food Network’s BBQ, Brews & ‘Que, Beat Bobby Flay!, and Beat Bobby Flay! Rematch, Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters, and Travel Channel’s Food Paradise, and recently worked alongside Budweiser to set the Guinness World Record for most people grilling simultaneously.

Having had interest in expanding into the Kentucky market for a while, Chef Johnson found Schwartz to be the perfect partner, and Union to be a fitting community for Sugarfire’s playful culture and expansive selection of barbecue offerings.

“The opportunity to be a part of such an incredible brand is a blessing,” said Schwartz. “What Sugarfire has done in its first six years in St. Louis is nothing short of remarkable. Sugarfire has brought a cool and hip vibe to barbecue, and for us to be able to bring this unique concept to our hometown of Union is simply surreal.”

The Sugarfire at Union Connection menu will be consistent with the other Sugarfire locations, made-to-order on Ole Hickory smokers and offered alongside over-the-top daily specials and sides curated by classically trained chefs. The menu will also highlight concept staples such as local craft beer and soda, housemade cookies and pies, and boozy milkshakes. Standing apart from other locations, Sugarfire at Union Connection will house a full-service bar and has plans to offer weekly chef-driven drink specials. Open seven days a week, the restaurant will provide counter-service, with approximately 60 seats inside and an additional 38 seats on the outside patio, as well as carryout, delivery and catering.

For construction updates & more, follow Sugarfire at Union Connection on  TwitterInstagram andFacebook at @SugarfireUnionKY. For Sugarfire’s menu and more information, visit

-Staff report