The former owner of The Hog Pit Smokehouse is teaming up with the operator of one of the city’s most popular food trucks on a new venture that marries barbecue and Mexican cuisines.
Les Baxter will incorporate about 75 percent of his Hog Pit menu — barbecue brisket, ribs, pulled pork and smoked sausage — and Paul Kukich will include his signature BurgerRito — a burger in a burrito prepared six ways including as a chimichanga — and other Mexican food favorites on the menu of The Les-Paul Lounge. The restaurant and bar is moving into the lobby of the eight-story Broadway Tower at 4400 E. Broadway.
The pair hope to open the restaurant by July 1, Baxter said. The lounge area, separated from the dining room by a small walkway, is under construction and no opening date has been announced.
Baxter and Kukich have been working on the Les-Paul Lounge since late last year and had initially hoped to be open in January. But the project was put on hold when the building was sold last December and the partners had to wait until the new owners took over, Baxter said.
Baxter on Sunday closed the Hog Pit, 6910 E. Tanque Verde Road, which he had run for 19 months. The building had a chronic leaky roof that needed expensive repairs before the monsoon season kicks in this month, he said. Baxter noted that Tuesday’s rains, heavy at times, seeped through the roof “and there were puddles and buckets all over the place.”
“This was a sign; we did the right thing,” he said. “When it comes down to what’s best for the safety of the customers and the staff it was a no-brainer. We weren’t going to put that much money into a building we didn’t own.”
The Les-Paul Lounge — taken from both men’s first names with no relation to the famous Les Paul Gibson guitar — will seat as many as 50 diners and an equal number in the bar. Baxter said Tucson solo musicians, duos and trios will perform live sets in the bar as they had at the Hog Pit.
This is Kukich’s first brick-and-mortar venture, although he spent years managing restaurants before launching BurgerRito 2½ years ago.
He called the combined menus a culinary marriage and one-stop dining.
“It’s going to be a very unique, monster menu,” he said, noting that it will incorporate about two-thirds of each of the partners’ menus. “Probably the only thing we don’t have is Chinese food and pizza.”