South Salt Lake • Benji Stalling went from sitting behind a desk to standing over a hot smoker.
And the former banker turned pit master couldn’t be happier about the switch.
“I got tired of making money for other people,” said the 31-year-old owner of Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack. “I decided to make it for myself.”
Part restaurant, part catering company, Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack serves all kinds of smoked meats — tri tip and brisket to pulled pork, ribs and prime rib for a $1.50 an ounce. Those who buy meat items get drinks and sliced white bread on the house.
Sides include traditional coleslaw and potato salad as well as creamed corn, dirty rice, collard greens, spicy mac ‘n’ cheese, black-eyed peas and cornbread. They are $4 for an 8-ounce cup. Sweet tea is sold by the quart for $4.
Eat in or take it to go. Either way, food is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s the only way to do barbecue,” said Stalling, who has adjusted his schedule to accommodate both his family (a wife and two children) and his work. He gets about three hours of shut-eye each night — with two daytime naps.
That might seem extreme most of the year, he said, except that he plans to temporarily close from Dec. 20 through Jan. 31 each year to give himself and his employees a vacation. His motto: “Treat Yo Team. Don’t Cheat Yo Team.”
Born in Germany, Stalling spent much of his youth in Georgia, where he learned about food from his great-grandmother Ella Lee Webb. At 15, he moved with his mother and two brothers to Salt Lake City. A few years after graduating from West High School, he got a job at a bank, eventually moving into management.
He left in 2012 and started Dem Po’ Boyz BBQ with a partner. The food business evolved from a food stand to a mobile truck and then an actual restaurant in Magna. After three years in business, the partners split amicably, and Stalling went back into the financial world.
He didn’t stay long, deciding he preferred barbecue to banking. He opened Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack on May 4 in a former Wendy’s fast-food restaurant north of the Century 16 Theaters.
Stalling has a lot of plans for the shack. In July, he expects to add a butcher shop with USDA prime meats. Later, he hopes to add soul food items to the menu — and dedicate it to his grandmother. A meal service and home delivery are in the works, too.
If that’s not enough, Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack also sells high-protein dog treats.
The restaurant tables include a built-in metal trash bowl, where customers can dispose of the rib and chicken bones when they’re done eating. Stalling grinds the bones into a powder, mixes it with grease and fats from the kitchen and then smokes the mixture for hours.
King’s Treats — named after a dog Stalling rescued — are sold in bags for $15 each. Pick those up in the back of the store.
Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack • 3245 S State St., South Salt Lake; 435-709-5227 or benjisbbqshack.com