One day last May, Suzanne Joncoaltz dropped by Kinder’s Meats, the former BBQ and sandwich franchise on First and West D Streets in Downtown Benicia, to enquire about buying a meat slicer. Joncoaltz and her husband, Dominick LaLicata, owned Heritage Pantry and Spice, and had heard that Kinder’s owners Jeff and Karen Hodgkinson might be retiring and closing up shop.
But Joncoaltz left Kinder’s that day with something better than a slicer: the vision for a new business. “I walked back [to Heritage] and said something like, ‘I think I just agreed to buy them out,’” she says. While at Kinder’s, Joncoaltz had spoken with Jeff Hodgkinson, who convinced her to take over the space. Heritage Pantry and Spice had started to outgrow its location, and the move would offer more space—including an outdoor patio—and opportunities for an expanded menu.
By early September, Crossroads Smokehouse & Deli had opened as a hybrid of the two businesses. Smokehouse sandwiches, such as ball tip steak and BBQ beef are available, along with Heritage Pantry-style sandwiches (with pop-culture names like The Big Easy and Winter is Coming), deli salads, high-end cheeses, and specialty items like chutney, spices, oils, and vinegars. “We’re trying to create a fun and friendly environment where all kinds of foods are celebrated,” says LaLicata. “The menu items are recipes we create ourselves. We offer the same types of things as Kinder’s did, but it’s a revamped menu, and we brought over our own menu as well.”
Crossroads also offers a selection of sliced meats to order. LaLicata, who managed an Italian deli for 13 years prior to opening Heritage Pantry and Spice, says that smoking meats commercially is a new venture he’s enjoying. “Neither of us had commercially smoked anything before,” he says, “but my creative outlet is cooking and creating new recipes.”
Kinder’s staff members stayed on to work at Crossroads, which helped make for a smooth transition. Joncoaltz and LaLicata also brought staff over from Heritage, so fans of both businesses can find not only familiar menu items, but familiar faces. “One of the best things about the move is the staff,” says LaLicata. “Everybody here is fantastic, like a well-oiled machine. They’ve taken what could have been a difficult transition and learned what we do so quickly, and embraced us. It’s been amazing.”
Both Kinder’s and Heritage Pantry and Spice offered catering, and Joncoaltz says she is excited to expand that further with Crossroads. The business caters a range of events, offering meat and cheese boards (with olives, cornichon pickles, nuts, fig jam, and baguettes), smokehouse sliders, signature sandwiches, and desserts. For a unique wedding “cake” option, Crossroads creates beautiful cheese wheels in the shape of a tiered wedding cake, complete with flowers.
While the aesthetics of the building have not changed with the new business, the owners envision making some updates in the future. Joncoaltz says they would like to see new cabinetry and furniture inside, as well as new patio seating outdoors. “We want to foster that community feeling,” says LaLicata, “and make sure everybody feels like they’re welcome here.”
333 First St. #A, Benicia