Barbecue birthday bash: Skinny’s marks one year in Muscatine

Cord Kleist showing off one of Skinny's barbecue sandwiches.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–For Cord Kleist, working in the restaurant business continues a family tradition. His father, Mike Kleist, opened Boonies, where Cord Kleist worked for seven years before considering opening an eatery of his own.

When Cord Kleist’s father and brother began working on Proof Social, which specializes in cocktails and craft beers, they knew they wanted a restaurant nearby that could supply them with food. At the time, Cord Kleist had grown curious about Texas style barbecue and suggested they open a barbecue joint. He persisted with the suggestion, and his father eventually said, “if you’re serious, draw up a business plan.” Cord Kleist did, and from it came Skinny’s Barbecue.

From the start, Skinny’s served a unique kind of dry rub barbecue including recipes inspired by Texas barbecue and enhanced with some secrets from Kleist and his two partners, Ben Shield and Mitch Todd. Growing up, Kleist had little taste for barbecue. “I wasn’t a big barbecue fan because I don’t like barbecue sauce,” he remembers.” However, he quickly changed his mind when he discovered dry rub barbecues that provided big flavors without thick, messy sauces.

Along with two prep cooks, the trio has developed a menu full of mouthwatering favorites, including classics like brisket and pulled pork, and some inventions of their own, including burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, and their Mac Daddy mac and cheese, each of which feature various barbecued meats in them. “They’re some of our favorites,” Kleist shared. Along with appealing entrees, Skinny’s also offers a wide range of sides.

In response to a greater demand for take out since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Skinny’s has reworked each of their meals to allow for items to come individually packaged. This allows for greater food safety as well as more customized combinations of meals and sides.

Since opening Skinny’s, Kleist has enjoyed building a clientele for his restaurant. Though attracting regulars can prove challenging, Kleist has found that engaging with people through Skinny’s Facebook page (which shares their daily specials) and offering a consistently delicious menu has had many people coming back again and again. “They’re like family with me and Mitch and Ben,” he shared, adding, “we’re going to continue to grow.”

To celebrate the success Skinny’s has already had, they held a first birthday celebration the weekend of Sept. 11. Throughout the weekend, Skinny’s offered unbeatable deals on several of their signature cuts of meat. Saturday evening, Skinny’s partnered with Proof Social for an evening of live music on the patio, featuring appearances by Frankie Joe and Kinfolk.

Looking back, Kleist cannot believe Skinny’s has already celebrated its first birthday. “It’s crazy,” he reflected, adding, “it’s funny to think we’ve been through so much already.” Though Kleist has big dreams for Skinny’s future, he says each day already feels like a win and that, “we’re happy to be where we are–every day we have people tell us how awesome it is.”

As the weather cools and people start looking for good warm comfort food, Kleist welcomes you to Skinny’s. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Skinny’s provides in person dining at 208 West Second Street, Muscatine, and carry out options, which diners may order online or by calling (563) 261-7445.