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Mon River runs red -- as in barbecue sauce

Thursday, January 03, 2002

By Kathleen Ganster

The rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns is one of the longest in the National Football League.

And now our Steelers are in the playoffs, so every game is especially important. Whether tailgating at the new Heinz Field or in your living room, you can keep your Steelers parties a hometown celebration by making barbecue sandwiches or wings using Mon River Pittsburgh Bar-B-Q Sauce.

West Mifflin restaurateur Wayne Laux Sr. has gone public with his Mon River Pittsburgh Bar-B-Que Sauce -- in four flavors. (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

Created by restaurant owner Wayne Laux Sr., the sauce used at his West Mifflin restaurant, the Carrousel Saloon Steak & Ribhouse, is now available to the public.

Laux opened Carrousel seven years ago after renovating a garage in that location. At the time, he was involved in a business venture to open several rib houses. When the plan fell through, Laux decided to open his own rib house and created Carrousel.

In his quest to have a great rib house, Laux wanted the perfect sauce. Laux said it took some time to create the sauce. "I would travel around to different restaurants trying sauces and then try to re-create them at home. I didn't want something that would be too hot for women or something that the kids didn't like."

While he tested recipes, Laux would try the sauces on various dishes sold at the restaurant. "If my customers weren't eating it, I knew it wasn't good, no matter what I thought," he said. "When they wanted to buy the sauce to take home, I knew it was right."

The whole process took about three years, said Laux, and the result wasn't just one but four sauces -- original, honey, spicy and smoky. About three months ago, he started selling the sauce in 20-ounce bottles.

"Someone will have an order of ribs and want to take some home. It works out great," he said.

Laux sells the bottles for $3 each.

To handle the distribution, in November Laux hired Cloverhill Foods of Bridgeville.

"This isn't the best time of year to start selling barbecue sauce, but it is doing pretty good," said president Bill Virgi.

The sauce is available in a few area stores, including McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville, Mele's Shop-n-Save in Canonsburg and Tom Friday's Market in Brighton Heights.

Laux has always been in the restaurant business, and he owned several pizza shops and restaurants over the years. He also owns Amity Street Cafe, located near the new Waterfront complex in Homestead. Laux's son, Sean, runs the Cafe and his wife, Cindy, manages Carrousel.

"We make up the batches of sauce to use here," Laux said of the restaurant. "We serve it with everything. Our customers use it to dip their french fries and, of course, with things like our wings, ribs, beef sandwiches, burgers and steaks."

Although selling the sauce is a fairly new adventure, Laux hopes it really takes off. "We have someone developing a Web site so that we can ship a four-pack gift box anywhere in the world. It would also be perfect for the places that make gift baskets from Pittsburgh."

Beef Barbecue

My mother, Dolly Ganster, gave me this recipe. We made it with a 2-pound brisket and it made six large sandwiches.

3-pound beef brisket
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cumin or chili powder
3 cups bottled sauce

Using a slow cooker, mix all ingredients together except barbecue sauce. Cover and cook on low heat 10 to 12 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

About an hour before serving, remove the meat from the cooker and discard cooking liquid. Use two forks to pull apart the meat. Return to cooker with barbecue sauce and cook on high for 30 to 45 more minutes.

Kathleen Ganster is a Hampton-based free-lance writer.

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