Tag Archives: grill

Be Your Own Pit Boss

July 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota, barbecue enthusiast Gary Dunteman learned many skills. “When you’re a farm kid, you’ve got to be your own mechanic, you’ve got to be your own carpenter—you’ve got to learn how to do everything.” 

At 13, his dad taught him how to weld to fix machinery. Now his welding comes in handy as he tries out various techniques to create the perfect smoker.

Dunteman once built a 120-gallon smoker with a customized rotisserie rack out of an old air compressor tank from a service station. “People look at it and ask, ‘What is that?’” he says. “I can do 16 racks of ribs at one time.” 

He competes in statewide barbecue competitions on the team Hawgenz Heroz, and he gets a lot of looks when traveling to contests in his decommissioned ambulance. “I call her Rosalie,” he says. The ambulance used to serve the village of Rosalie, Nebraska. “Everybody should have an ambulance. An ambulance has a lot of storage room.” 

Dunteman, who works in packaging sales, first became interested in meat smoking when his former warehouse manager built a barrel smoker. “He brought it into work one day and made some ribs on it. I thought that was the most awesome thing that ever happened.” So Dunteman taught himself how to make his own smoker by watching “ugly drum smoker” videos on YouTube. 

Dunteman says his specialty air compressor smoker would be difficult for most grilling enthusiasts to make (due to the types of tools necessary). But he says that anyone can build their own barrel smoker. Dunteman built his in an afternoon and it cost him around $100 in materials. 

Steps: First, treat your barrel by “starting a big old fire” in it with wood and charcoal to season it. “You want to get it smoked up before you actually start cooking the meat in it.” He then took pieces from an old 21-inch Weber Grill. He repurposed the racks and used the bottom of the grill to make the lid. If you don’t have an old grill, you can purchase a smoker cover and a replacement cooking grate for the racks separately. 

To make the coal basket, he attached four carriage bolts to the bottom of the rack and then attached a 6-inch piece of expanded steel around it to make a basket. “I wrapped it around it and wired it to the rack.” He removed the handle from the side of the grill and put it on top of the smoker lid. He then drilled holes in the bottom of the barrel and attached caster wheels. 

He also put in a suspended water pan (a disposable aluminum dish) between the coal basket and the rack of meat. “The water simmers and keeps it moist and steams the meat as it’s getting smoked, so it doesn’t dry out the meat.” He recommends buying a smoker cover to protect from the rain. Dunteman says if taken care of, a barrel smoker will last a very long time, giving the user many years of savory memories.

Materials Needed 

  • 55-gallon refurbished steel barrel ($29.99 from Jones Barrel Co.) 
  • 4 caster wheels
  • Replacement cooking grate or a secondhand grate sourced from a 21-inch Weber Grill
  • Expanded sheet steel (12-by-24 inches)
  • 4 carriage bolts
  • Smoker cover
  • Disposable aluminum dish for water pan

Aside from the 55-gallon barrel, all of these parts can be purchased at local hardware stores.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Restaurant Review: El Basha Mediterranean Grill

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Mediterranean Coast and the Islands of the Mediterranean Sea are by all reports some of the most beautiful places in the world. I have never really had the opportunity to visit this part of the world, but it’s something that’s high up on my bucket list. For now, I will have to make do with reading, looking at pictures, and eating the incredible cuisine from this area. The latter I can do right here in Omaha at El Basha Mediterranean Grill.

On the end of a modest strip mall on the corner of South 75th and Pacific streets is where you will find some of the best Mediterranean food in the area. The small restaurant is not the most attractive place in the world, but they have done a nice job with the space they have to work with. The tables are draped with white tableclothes, then topped with glass, and the chairs are comfortable and sturdy with leather backs. The patio is particularly lovely with many beautiful flowering plants and several attractive tables.

The service at El Basha is semi self-service, meaning you go up to the counter to order your food and beverage and then they bring it to your table. The system worked flawlessly, and the food comes out of the kitchen quite quickly. The young lady who took our order and brought us our food was very nice, and she was also able to answer several questions about the menu. Unfortunately, they do not have a license to sell spirits; on the positive side, they do allow you to bring your own wine and do not charge a corkage fee. It’s also quite fortunate that a gourmet deli and liquor store, Spirit World, is located in the same strip mall. Specialty wines and beers are just a few steps away.

The food at El Basha is the best part of the experience. On a recent visit, my dining partner and I tried the Meza Plate ($9.99) for an appetizer. This dish is a sampling of their most popular appetizers, including the best Hummus in Omaha, Baba Guanuje, Falafels, Taboule Salad, and a basket of fresh pita bread. All these tasted incredible and had the desired effect of really whetting our appetite.

Next, for entrees I had the El Basha Special Platter ($12.99) and my dining partner had the Chicken Shawarma Wrap ($6.99). The Special Platter is a mixed plate that includes Shish Kabob, Shish Tawok, Grilled Kafta with three sauces, and grilled vegetables, all served over Middle Eastern-style rice. This sampling was attractively presented and delicious. The unique flavors, spices, and aromas that come from this trio of Lebanese-style dishes are something that you will need to experience for yourself to fully appreciate.

As if that was not enough, this dish also came with a choice of soup or salad. I chose the soup and was blown away by one of the best Lentil Curry soups I have ever tried. The fresh-roasted coriander seed and lemon squeeze really set it off. My dining partner’s wrap was filled with the same chicken as I had with the Shish Tawok, which is essentially a curried, grilled chicken skewer. The wrap was also loaded with fresh tomatoes, onion, and a yogurt-based garlic sauce, which resulted in a very tasty wrap. It was served with a vinaigrette-style cold potato salad that was also very good and like nothing I have ever had before. Even though we didn’t need it, we finished our dinner off with some of their incredible Baklava ($3) for dessert.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at El Basha and plan to go back and eat my way through the rest of the menu, all the while pretending that I’m traveling in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. If you’re like me and enjoy eating foods from exotic locations almost as much as going there in person, then you will just love El Basha.


El Basha Mediterranean Grill
7503 Pacific St.

RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ***
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Price: Inexpensive
Overall: **1/2