by Michael Krapovicky | photography by David Fuller

Kevin and Jill Cunningham have owned and operated a successful restaurant, Burnt Ends Barbecue, since 2022. Their Lewiston location was lucrative, but a growing client base and a need to offer further services to their customers prompted the couple to seek ulterior environs. The new space in Auburn at 120 Center Street can hold up to 250 people – offering entertainment, full bar service, and the quality barbecue they have prepared for LA’s clientele for nearly two years. The owners and staff at Burnt Ends Barbecue adhere to two simple rules, “Be a good human, and don’t serve sh*t.”



Kevin Cunningham has always found joy in the food service industry. Cooking and managing kitchens all over the state—as well as catering weddings and other events—Kevin sought to run a business based on his own philosophy and aesthetics. Kevin partnered with his wife Jill to establish Burnt Ends Barbecue in 2022. Located on Sabattus Street, Burnt Ends found favor immediately with LA’s patrons – who had long been treated to Kevin’s fare since his days of cooking at Mac’s Grill and Marché. The Cunninghams sought to bring a Southern influence to their menu choices, as well as how the food is prepared, ordered, and enjoyed.

“We are staying true to the Southern style of barbecue service,” says Kevin. “You order at the counter, and we bring you your food.”



With a significant amount of take-out business, Jill and Kevin considered expansion. Marketing research led them to the Auburn side of the bridge.

“The biggest reason for our move was our customer base was closer to Auburn,” says Kevin. “Plus, if we promoted ‘come, eat, stay’, we would have had a jammed-up dining room in Lewiston.”

The couple discovered the 120 Center Street location and amended their initial business plan to accommodate their expanded potential business volume. Officially opening on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, the Center St. location was extremely well-received by LA’s citizenry.

Burnt Ends Barbecue take-out orders increased, and adding the extended dine-in capability also yielded positive growth.

“We can offer more of a tavern-type experience now,” affirms Jill. “There’s a full-service bar with liquor and ten taps of draft beer.”

In addition to ample, comfortable seating for its regular patrons, the 7,500-square-foot facility has a semi-private area where catered events can be held, with its own bar and staff.

“The old place would almost fit entirely in the kitchen area of the new space,” Kevin remarks. “Now families can come, enjoy their dinner and company, play Cornhole, pinball, video games – have an all-around great experience.”


Savor Fare

Burnt Ends relies on their style own when it comes to barbecue. The Cunninghams pick and choose what flavors work for them based on their tastes rather than owing to a particular school of preparation.

“Our ribs are Louisiana/Florida – dry rubbed with no sauce; we do baby-back, not St. Louis ribs,” Kevin says. “Our pulled pork is done with less vinegar, more sweet—more South Carolina than North.”

Always cognizant of traditional types of cooking methodologies, ultimately Burnt Ends applies an amalgam of styles to create signature barbecue dishes.

“Our pork belly burnt ends are our own recipe, that doesn’t follow a particular tradition,” Kevin maintains. “I smoke my pork a lot less than other folks do, maybe half the time, because I like a little less bite from the smoke.”

Kevin has been in the kitchen industry his entire life and has years of experience slow cooking with wood-fired smokers.

“I have a smoker, I’ve smoked pigs at home, and we catered weddings well before Burnt Ends was an idea,” Kevin declares. “The flavors we have are the flavors we really dig, how we like to eat our pulled meat.”

Their take on a Franco-American staple, “Ghetto Poutine” – with French fries, mac-and-cheese, breadcrumbs, and a meat option, is a popular dish with  regular customers.

“Part of being a good human is serving your community,” Kevin states. “We feel we cater to the tastes of the people of LA – hearty food, with ample portions.”

Jill Cunningham feels what sets Burnt Ends Barbecue apart from other establishments is the care in choosing the cuts that the customers find on their plates.

“I think our meat is of exceptional quality,” Jill ascertains. “I really love the pork belly burnt ends, and our Pulled Pork Caesar Salad.”

Burnt Ends Barbecue offers in-house crafted sauces, and most meals come with cornbread and honey butter.



Burnt Ends Barbecue also offers catering services for weddings, corporate events, parties, and other functions.

“We catered an event for Proctor & Gamble, 175 people, four days in a row,” says Jill. “We also provided service for the city of Auburn’s New Year’s Eve event, which was over 500 people.”

“This restaurant is a feeder program for catering, to get the word out,” Kevin explains. “People come in, have a great experience at our restaurant, and they see a sign that says we offer catering.”

“Catering is the fun part—there’s so many events we’ve had the opportunity to do… and that covers the slow times when people are away for the summer,” Jill agrees.

Burnt Ends has people who are fully trained in catering and can service multiple events simultaneously. Yet the Cunninghams find great satisfaction in providing their personal touch.

“We get to go to people’s weddings every weekend, all summer long,” decries Kevin. “You get to see people on the happiest day of their lives – a groom seeing his bride for the first time – it’s awesome.”



The Cunninghams are in the process of executing their 10-year business plan. Within two years, they wish to have a second location for Burnt Ends, and eventually own a wedding venue facility. Also, their dream is to pass on the business to their valued employees.

“We want this to be employee-owned— the leaders and the people who work for us here able to buy in and have a piece of this,” muses Kevin. “I’d love to be sitting around a table with the new owners of Burnt Ends, who have come up through with Jill and I and learned our philosophy – the Cunningham way.”

The Cunninghams’ strong commitment to the LA area has resulted in a reciprocal relationship of positivity with their community.

“We are here for the people, super-excited to get to serve the people of our area,” Jill says. “We feel our business can work, right here.”


Burnt Ends Barbecue

Auburn |