It’s been at least over a year since Grandpa John’s Rib Shack took over the space that Riley’s Cleaners had on Willow Knolls between Allen Road and University. I know because MBIP World Headquarters is located right across the street. Every time I’d go by, I’d have a hankering for their ribs and sauce and wonder when they’d ever open up. And then this week I went by the sign and it had these two glorious words on it:
“Now Open.” Well, there’s only two words that I can retort with here: “Let’s go!”
Instead of a “drive-by” shot today, here’s a walking photo right across the street...
And here we are at Grandpa John’s Rib Shack! The last time we were at the old location on University Street near Pioneer Park, this blog was just in it’s infancy and that was over three years ago! You can read that and it’s got the history and legacy of Grandpa John’s there. In a nutshell, Grandpa John’s is aptly named because the owner, Doug Robinson is the son of legendary Peoria barbecue restaurant owner, Big John, who was the grandfather to his children. Anyway, glad to see the neon, “Open” sign lit up here! Let’s go in and take a look around.
It’s very nice in here and let’s step up to the ordering window and place our luncheon order as I’m starvin’ just like you know who! That’s A.P. and Cole behind the window and they took my order and while that’s being prepared, let’s take a look around in here at the new location of Grandpa John’s Rib Shack.
As I took a couple of shots inside the dining room I noticed this family in the corner and discovered that the woman at the head of the table is Mary Ann and she’s Big John Robinson’s niece and worked at the original Big John’s restaurant starting back in 1956 when she was just in high school!
Calia was seated at the table, but wanted her own solo picture, Big John would’ve been proud of her!
Speaking of Big John, here’s some vintage photos of him and family and friends over here in this framed collage of old photos, it’s worth the trip here just to look at these wonderful photos from the past.
And there’s more over here on this wall. Check out the woman to the far right in the second photo, that’s Mary Ann back in the ‘70’s! And there’s Big John and the downtown awning of the restaurant so many of us are familiar with.
There’s two more photos from the past over here.
And here’s a Chicago Tribune article from 1976, when Big John was being pushed out of his restaurant’s location here in Peoria. You can read that article right here, just scroll down to the bottom of the first page. Below that is a Phil Luciano review from the Grandpa John’s location on University in the Dining Out section of the Journal Star from 2012.
Okay, enough looking around in here, let’s get a table and wait for our lunch to arrive! The smell in here is so good and brings back great barbecue memories!
This is the table I selected to sit at and I’ve marked my territory with a styrofoam glass of unsweetened iced tea.
Here’s the view from where I’m seated.
And here’s the best view I’ve seen in a long time, a rib dinner from Grandpa John’s! These ribs smell and look just like ones from years gone by!
I dipped the first meaty and succulent rib in the tub of Grandpa John’s sauce and it’s like taking a trip back in time via your taste buds! So delicious, the ribs are fall off the bone tender and the sauce has that Big John’s tang that I’ve missed for a long time! I tore through these half dozen ribs in record time!
You get two sides with a rib dinner and I got the fries and cole slaw. The fries were done up in Big John’s style and the cole slaw was crisp and just a little on the tart side, which is the way I like it. And of course you get a slice of bread to eat along with the dinner. This was so good and I’m lucky I live across the street, this is just the first meal of many for me from the new Grandpa John’s location!
And in the end all that’s left is bones and empty containers. What a great lunch and I’m so glad Grandpa John’s new location finally opened up, now stop by and try out the ribs and let’s make sure this place stays open and the legacy and memory of Big John lives on. As I walked out the door, full of ribs and meaty memories only one thing was missing: No one said, “Thanks a lot, y’all have enough to eat?” Someone needs to train A.P. and Cole how to shout that out to customer’s as they exit this restaurant! We’ll see you all tomorrow!
Grandpa John’s Rib Shack
2328 West Willow Knolls Drive