For a year-old restaurant in Glen Burnie, meat goes nicely not only with rubs and barbecue sauces, but also with donations in support of emergency workers and service members.
In a short time, Mission BBQ has developed a reputation for donating countless sandwiches and raising thousands of dollars to help police, firefighters and members of the military.
"This is our chance to serve," said Bill Kraus, who owns the restaurant with a friend, Steve "Newt" Newton.
Before the men officially opened the doors, fundraising for organizations was already under way.
The restaurant's soft opening last September benefited the emergency assistance funds of police and firefighters unions in Anne Arundel County, pouring about $6,000 into the coffers of each. Opening day benefited the Wounded Warrior Project, providing that organization with about the same amount.
Throughout the year, the restaurant has fed people at various charity tournaments run by police and fire organizations and fed the family of a fallen Marine the day of the funeral. Mission BBQ gave the Wounded Warriors more than $10,000 in the spring, raised mostly through the sale of commemorative drink cups, and has made food runs to Fort Meade.
Kraus is a former Under Armour executive and Newton is a former Outback Steakhouse executive. The 48-year-old Ellicott City residents met about two decades ago when their children were in elementary school together
They developed the idea for a restaurant that would combine the all-American flavors and sentiments of Fourth of July and backyard barbecues with a focus on supporting local first responders and service members with cash and food. Covering the walls are donated law enforcement, firefighter and military patches, along with photos of supporters and memorabilia.
"It's the closest thing to being part of a team that exists today in the business mentality," Kraus said.
In June, it contributed food and drinks for the motorcycle ride that raises money for the firefighter union's Burn Foundation, support that the union would otherwise have had to fund itself.
"It keeps our costs down," said Craig Oldershaw, union president.
The owners say they hope to build similar relationships with organizations when they open another restaurant this fall in Perry Hall.
Given its focus on philanthropy, it's not surprising that the restaurant has a following that includes plenty of police, firefighters and military families as patrons.
Oldershaw and O'Brien Atkinson, president of the police union, said their members support a place that helps them and their communities. A local Hogs and Heroes Foundation chapter — the organization supports public safety and military personnel — goes there after meetings.
Trucking 4 Troops, a nonprofit organization begun a year and a half ago by a Crownsville family, shows up at least once a month, bringing service members who are recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
"We bring them here, and Steve feeds them for free," said Scott Mallary, a founder, who came with his family for Tuesday's 9/11 gathering to thank the restaurant's owners and staff.
Mission marked the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with an open invitation for a free meal to all first responders in the area; an American flag hung from the extended ladders of two county firetrucks in the parking lot.
"You serve us and this community every day," Newton said in brief remarks before the national anthem was sung at noon — a daily ceremony for the restaurant. "On this day, it's our honor to serve you."
Firefighters and law enforcement personnel, in and out of uniform, said getting together informally was a good way to remember not only the people killed 11 years ago, but also those who died in the line of duty elsewhere and at other times. And it reaffirmed their bonds and camaraderie.
Before the lunch rush ended, there was barely a commemorative "Never Forget" cup or T-shirt remaining. Proceeds were to benefit Anne Arundel County police and fire unions' emergency assistance funds.