When it comes to local food establishments like 2Dudes Brew & Que, there is so much more beyond the menu. From a food truck beginning, this local smokehouse continues to evolve and overcome.
article by VANELIS RIVERA / photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK
The ambiance at 2Dudes Brew & Que is not too far from what one would expect from a modern barbeque joint. The smokey smell of meat and sauce permeates the air. Sports memorabilia decorate the walls. An American flag proudly overlooks a banner that reads “Hometown Heroes” in all caps. It feels familiar because it’s all-American, just the kind of setting to celebrate the summer. In many ways, it serves exactly what you’d want from a smokehouse and more, but when it comes to local food establishments like 2Dudes, there is so much more beyond the menu. Owner Kevo Meredith may not have his story written down for all to read, but if you look closely around the restaurant—displayed on the walls, published on the menu, and lazing around the front office—you’ll notice that he intentionally shares with employees and customers the parts of himself that matter most.
Kevo grew up on the south side of Monroe. He had an arduous upbringing with unkind parents. In spite of this hard past, he credits his grandmother for raising him to be a faith-based man with a strong work ethic. He admits, “There’s not a day in my life that doesn’t go by that I don’t think, ‘I wonder if she’s proud me?’” Before his food ventures began, he worked as a crane operator and instructor. Always interested in owning a bar and grill, he volunteered to cook a brisket for a company cookout to test his skills. “It was terrible,” he laughs. With a drive greater than his pride, he kept trying to improve his brisket skills. Keeping at it once every two weeks, the cut of meat inched its way to peak tenderness. Eventually, he started getting requests to cook a brisket for family meals and even weddings. “When a large group of people asks you to cook for them, you know that’s a good thing.” He spent the rest of those early years perfecting his skills while a vision brewed inside.
Around age thirty-five, he began telling his wife, Mary Willis Meredith, that they should bite the bullet and start a food truck. Each time he brought it up, they somehow agreed that the time wasn’t right. “I mean, you’re making six figures a year. You don’t worry about health insurance. You’d have the company truck every two years. Why would you take a risk on something that is so uncertain?” He had to admit to himself that he’d become complacent. He recalls thinking, “I’ve just quit trying.” The “kind of embarrassing” push he needed came in the form of a quote he found on Pinterest: “If you keep doing what you are doing, you’re building someone else’s dream. But, if you take a leap of faith, you can work to build your own.” On Tuesday, October 2015, he went into work, and without telling his wife, turned in his notice. “Of course, the first couple of days were kind of tough because she wanted to kill me,” he reveals with a wry smile.
Kevo’s first step toward a future catering business was purchasing a utility truck and converting it into a food truck. “That was February . And, then March—the flood…we lost everything.” Considering that insurance did not cover all damages and his recent departure from a stable career, Kevo regards that agonizing experience as an immeasurable uphill battle. “I know that sounds crazy, but it was so emotionally overwhelming to me,” he reveals. Thankfully, his wife’s employment kept them afloat, and by the summer, they finally got their “feet underneath” the food truck. With catering going well and high praise from customers, his end result was closer in mind. He was encouraged to talk to Michael Echols who was interested in developing downtown Monroe.
The business opened in December 2018 but barely reached its second year of business before COVID-19 hit. Though they made to-go orders during quarantine, production value fell, and they decided to close. “It was the four-year anniversary of the flood…which I thought was weird, yeah,” Kevo laments. Fortunately, we were all developed a craving for our favorite local restaurants while the state was closed, and two months after quarantine ended, people rushed to get a fill of a little bit of “que” and a lot of brew. “We were shocked,” he explains. Finally getting a steady handle on the business, Kevo began to shape the culture of his restaurant. “Have you ever been to a restaurant where you walked in the door and everybody just stares at you and turns away?” That’s ninety percent of restaurants, he believes. Taking a page from Cheers, a show on his recent binge-list, he trained staff to greet everybody that walks in as if they are regulars. “It’s a very easy culture,” he argues. “It’s energetic. It’s everybody helping everybody.”
It’s best not to wait too long to eat lunch or dinner at 2Dudes because their best sellers—brisket, ribs, and pork belly—often run out. “That’s something people get agitated about,” admits Kevo, though that’s the price of fresh barbecue, “We don’t freeze anything. We’ve always said freezers are for ice.” With about eight barbecue combos to choose from, all you have to do is select your meats (smoked brisket, pulled pork, ham, meatloaf, chicken, sausage, or ribs), sides (potato salad, beefy baked beans, coleslaw, side salad, corn nuggets, “sidewinder” fries, pork rinds, and “tin roof” fries), and barbecue sauces. The Kevo sauce is his own creation, a jalapeno vinegar sauce, the recipe of which he keeps to himself. Some of the other 2Dudes meals are a bit more artistic, like the Smoked BBQ Meatloaf: smoked ground beef topped with a BBQ glaze, stuffed with cheddar cheese, and served with two sides and bread. “My wife told me that nobody’s gonna eat barbecue meatloaf,” smirks Kevo, after revealing that it’s his second best-selling dish. So every time a customer orders the meatloaf, he turns to his wife and gives her a wink.
Kevo can’t tease his other half too much, because all the sides and desserts were her doing. In fact, Kevo admits that before opening he was so focused on perfecting the meats that he had forgotten they needed accompaniment. Thankfully, his wife helped him avoid a bind by developing the sides and “signature sides”—“best creamed corn ever,” 4 cheese mac & cheese, twice baked potato casserole, and a baked potato. On the menu, the desserts fall under the header “Things You Order After The Meal.” The designated dessert is the Top Shelf Banana Pudding, made all the better with the addition of Biscoff cookies, an idea Kevo suggested after tasting the Belgian import on a Delta flight. “It was like it was a no-brainer. The minute I tasted it, I just knew.” Another dessert taking advantage of the buttery confection is the Tableside S’mores, “Just as you read it…Chocolatey, ooey goodness, served with marshmallows, and Biscoff cookies.” Once in a while, the restaurant will add a dessert special like Cheesecake Banana Pudding or Bread Pudding with a rum sauce made from E Leon Jimenes Rum, sold by Legends Cigar and Vape in Ruston. So they use that in the sauce and drench it, and it’s really good.
The dining experience at 2Dudes is complete only when a very special English Bulldog can be seen at the front, open office. Dude came into Kevo’s life at a cataclysmic time, when he strongly considered quitting and selling the business. During the turmoil, he decided to purchase a puppy from a customer whose dog had a litter. When Dude turned two weeks old, Kevo met him and held him. “I know it sounds crazy, but by two weeks old, he absolutely, without a doubt, changed my life,” he says. Even then, there were times he’d wake up with the feeling that he built a business in vain, but then “this four-legged creature” would pitter-patter toward him with a look on his face that made Kevo want to be half the man Dude believed him to be. Life has thrown Kevo and Mary some unimaginable trials, from immeasurable loss to recuperating from major surgeries, and though the healing process has come in waves, Kevo credits Dude with reminding him to toughen up: “We’re gonna struggle, but I refuse to quit.”
“Your interaction with people has to be a certain way all the time,” says Kevo regarding his approach to service. “Anybody can have good food,” which is why 2Dudes Brew and Que never allows service to take a backseat, aiming to create memorable moments that begin with a greeting from staff and end with a slobbery farewell from Dude, unless of course, he’s playing with a chew toy or sleeping.
2Dudes Brew & Que is located 436 Desiard St, Monroe, LA 71201 and is open Sunday-Monday and Wednesday-Thursday between 11AM to 9PM, and Friday-Saturday between 11AM to 10PM. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.