Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 5, 2012

Sweet, smoky heaven

Barbecue joint opens at Webster and Defenbaugh

Kokomo — When Carol and Mike Wills noticed an unoccupied business at the corner of Defenbaugh and Webster streets, they decided it was time to introduce Kokomo to the pulled pork they’d been serving in Burlington.

“A lot of people just were saying ‘We don’t get out to Burlington for your pulled pork,’” said Carol Wills, who also owns The Dinner Bell in Burlington with her husband.

They settled into a corner shop at 425. W. Defenbaugh St. and opened Hawg Heaven in March.

For Carol, it was a venture that took her back to the neighborhood she grew up in.

One of her most frequent customers, she said, is her mother, who lives just a few houses down from the corner barbecue joint.

Space is limited in the largely carry-out and delivery-based Hawg Heaven, which can accommodate about a dozen sit-down customers. So the restaurant ships the barbecue to Kokomo from Burlington every day.

The Dinner Bell serves as the starting point for food preparation before sending it over to Kokomo, where Wills has decorated her business to show off the other type of “hawg” in her life — Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

In Burlington, the food undergoes an almost day-long barbecue process.

Meat starts with a coating of dry rub, the ingredients for which Wills keeps secret.

Pork shoulders — used for the top-selling “pork sammie” pulled pork sandwich — spend 18 hours slow cooking over cindering applewood from Farlow Orchard near Russiaville.

Once cooked, the meat travels the roughly 15 miles to Kokomo, where Hawg Heaven reheats the food for customers.

The pork has such a dedicated following that Hawg Heaven also sells it in bulk for $7.99 a pound.

Other sandwich options include brisket, prime rib, smoked chicken salad and Cubans, which have pulled pork, ham and Swiss cheese.

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