It was six in the morning on Sunday, January 31, 1993, and Karl Kuby Sr. had just started cooking a couple of bison over an open fire in a Tom Thumb grocery store parking lot. Later that evening, after OJ Simpson flipped the coin and Michael Jackson entertained at halftime, the Dallas Cowboys would defeat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII (and again the next year), but not before 3,000 people in Dallas feasted on a publicity stunt.
A few weeks earlier Kuby, who founded Kuby’s Sausage House in Dallas, had received a call from one of his regular customers. Jack Evans, former Dallas mayor and president of Tom Thumb grocery stores, told him, “We want you to barbecue two whole buffaloes.” Evans needed to promote his newest store in Valley Ranch, and thought a Super Bowl-themed barbecue would be a hit. For lunch? The opponent’s mascot.
Along with the barbecued bison, Tom Thumb was also giving away tickets to the big game, which started later that day, and a private jet ride to get winners to Los Angeles. It was a valuable pair of tickets, but before the giveaway could start, they needed to get lunch ready.
“I built myself a rotisserie to turn that thing. I swabbed that thing and we cooked it real slow.” Kuby remembers. The barbecue was served early, starting at ten in the morning. Buffalo sausages supplemented the buffalo meat that was cut directly from the rotating carcasses, similar to the way gyros on a spit are carved. It must have been a sight, but I haven’t found a photo of the event. Thankfully, Kuby remembers it vividly, especially when the Health Department showed up.
A young woman walked up to the rotisserie wielding a thermometer. Kuby is still mad when he recalls the exchange. “She said, ‘You can’t serve this. It’s raw inside.’ I said, ‘It’s not finished.'” She wouldn’t relent. “She goes to the car and comes back with this bucket full of kerosene and charcoal. She was going to paint the meat with it.” Kuby couldn’t let that happen, to see his work and all that meat go to waste. “I said, ‘Over my dead body.'”
He bargained with her. If she didn’t destroy the meat, he wouldn’t serve it to the guests. He would finish cooking it and serve the barbecued buffalo to the homeless. He knew an area under the elevated highway in Dallas where a lot of homeless lived. He pulled his truck up to the site and began unloading and carving 400 pounds of barbecued bison. “I don’t think they’ve ever eaten anything like it,” Kuby recalls.
Let this serve as a reminder that the Super Bowl is always more fun with barbecue. Let’s just hope this year that panthers and broncos stay off the menu.