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Eat It and Beaten

With brisket up to his pig statue, a downtown barbecue master gets paved over by progress.

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Danny Edwards is not about to take a break during his lunch rush.

At 10 a.m., the owner and chef at Lil' Jake's Eat It & Beat It — known for its pink concrete pig — is up to his elbows in beef tips. A dozen Styrofoam boxes sit empty except for a scoop of coleslaw, ready for those famous bits of burnt brisket. The pink walls in the 18-seat joint at 1227 Grand are covered in framed articles and accolades for the grub. There are catering orders to be filled, and walk-in customers are already lining up at the counter.

Business is swift, despite the fact that the city plans to take Edwards' restaurant through eminent domain. The city will give it to developer Jon Copaken, who will flatten it and plop down a $199 million office building. The place was recently mentioned on a blog by author Joe Miller and then written about in The Kansas City Star. So with all that attention, we asked Edwards to reflect on the state of his sauce. Edwards found a minute to talk over beer and cheese dip at Dos Hombres.

Pitch: When do you have to leave?

Edwards: I don't know. You know, they kind of have permission to do it. But there are people who know that stuff. I just know that it will happen, probably.

Will you stay downtown?

I like downtown, but there aren't any free-standing buildings available for me. It's hard to put a barbecue place in a building that has a bunch of people above you. It's a fire hazard. I start a fire everyday, as soon as I get there. That rubs insurance companies the wrong way.

You gotta keep the pig.

You can buy those pigs at that statuary place at 12th and Jackson. That's where I got him. We painted him. They come in a smaller size, too, so you could have a pig and a few little piglets behind him.

How much does it weigh?

Four hundred fifty pounds. I moved it. I put it there.

What happened to his ear?

You know, when people get up there and open those rolling steel curtains, they get their big butts up against there and kind of sit on the ear and get a little leverage. The ear is, like, the thinnest part of the concrete on that pig, so it kind of breaks it. And then I patched it, and it was broken, patched it, broke it, patched it, broke it. It's a problematic place.

Would you want a spot inside the Sprint Center?

The stadium people haven't talked to me, but the [Power & Light] entertainment district offered me to come over there and be part of their entertainment thing. It's just a little bit pricey. And I'm not really a renting-type person anyhow. I'll probably buy something someplace and do like I did before. I'll just do what I have to do when the time comes. It wasn't the Sprint arena that did me in. It's this new development they're having here at 12th and Grand. You gotta talk to Copaken about that. He's the bad guy on the deal.

Does Copaken really eat at Lil' Jake's?

Oh, yeah. He's eaten there before. He has spent lots of money with me on catering before, big parties for his building there, Town Pavilion. He's an OK guy. He's the bad guy in this particular scenario, you know, but I don't have any terrible feelings toward him or anything like that. Don't get me wrong, there's always a bad guy and there's always a little guy on these deals, and I know where I am. [Laughs]

Why do they have a right to it?

I guess it's kind of what they talk about when they talk about the abuse of the power of eminent domain. I'm not a big whiner about all this stuff. Stuff's going to happen, and I'm going to deal with it. I'm a survivor. I'll do what I have to do to get the job done, and I will continue to, no matter where that restaurant's going to be. But I'm born and raised here. This is where all my friends are. So you know where I'll be leaning.

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