The Rocket Restaurant Group

The owners of the Loop are, from left, Todd Jensen, Josh Paulsen, Derek Link and Ryan Brevig. All four are graduates of John Marshall High School.

The team behind Rochester’s Five West Kitchen & Bar is looking north to light up a smoking, new restaurant.

The Rocket Restaurant Group plans to build a new 6,571-square-foot barbecue eatery, Smoak, on open land along West Circle Drive, next to the north Aldi grocery store.

“We’ve been working on this idea for quite a while,” said Ryan Brevig. “We really enjoy what we’re doing. I’d say we’re in growth mode.”

Brevig, Josh Paulsen, Todd Jensen, Derek Link and Jonathan Buck are the partners behind the Rocket Restaurant Group. In addition to three restaurant/bars in the Twin Cities, they opened The Loop in downtown Rochester in 2012 and Five West in 2015.

The Texas-style barbecue vision for their sixth place comes from Paulsen, the culinary expert on the team.

Smoak will feature two “massive” wood-fired smokers, which will smoke all of the meat served there. They plan to burn only oak wood in the smokers, which inspired the spelling of the restaurant’s name.

Rocket Restaurant Group already has a purchase agreement for the land with Northwest Investments, a subsidiary of the Kwik Trip convenience store chain that developed the Costco commercial area.

If things go according to plan, the early permits for the project should be approved soon and Rocket will purchase the land. Brevig said they hope to start moving dirt this October to get the project moving before the ground freezes.

Smoak will be a lot smaller and less ornate than Five West. However, it will feature a 3,600-square-foot outdoor courtyard with its own drink shack. A garage-style door will also open at the back of the inside bar to the courtyard to offer more service.

“This is going to be a lot different from Five West. It’ll be a barbecue joint. It’s all about the cuisine,” Brevig said.

The Med City area already sports a few barbecue spots. Why launch Smoak in Rochester?

“We are big believers in Rochester,” he said with four of the owners all graduates of John Marshall High School.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Send tips to or via Twitter to @whereskiger. You can call him at 285-7798.

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