Sink Your Teeth Into the Peoria Area BBQ Scene


Tim Alexander, Guest Writer


Barbecue or barbeque is a term used with significant regional and national variations to describe various cooking methods that employ live fire and smoke to cook the food. Regardless of your interpretation of the term, Peoria has always been a city that appreciates great barbecue. Big John Robinson’s restaurants served as popular dining destinations for families throughout the Greater Peoria region for decades. The sweet and smoky tradition continues today, with an array of restaurants and taverns serving up tasty, tangy barbecue dishes from pulled pork and ribs to brisket, chicken, wings and more. 

Here are 12 great spots for BBQ:

Blue Duck Barbeque Tavern  {Peoria}   //   A casual pub located in Peoria’s historic rail depot that offers house-smoked ribs, chicken and pulled pork, BBQ along with beers, cocktails and whisky. Blue Duck uses only top quality ingredients in crafting their scratch-made food, which includes their regionally famous smoked and fried chicken wings, BBQ nachos and dry rubbed ribs. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays; full catering menu offered.  

Country Club BBQ  {Peoria}   //   Cocktails, live music, a beer garden and great BBQ set the vibe for this restaurant, which offers lunch, dinner and late night dining. All the meat at Country Club BBQ is locally raised and processed at nearby Raber’s Packing Co., from where it is delivered daily before being smoked. Tip: try the Nashville Chicken Sandwich topped with House slaw and pickles. Open seven days at 11am. 

Crusens  {West Peoria}   //   Home to locally famous Whitey’s Barbecue, Crusens serves Whitey’s classic St. Louis style spare ribs along with smoked brisket, pulled pork and meatloaf. All of Whitey’s entrees are served with complimentary cornbread. BBQ menu available 7 days a week from 11am - 7pm. Limited delivery available.

Dac’s Smokehouse  {Morton}   //   Unique BBQ egg rolls, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, smoked chicken wings, Dac’s mac and cheese, the hot honey garlic fried chicken sandwich…it’s hard to go wrong with any selection from the eclectic array of menu items at Dac’s. Open Mondays through Saturdays at 10:30am, with catering also offered.

Fro-Smokes Meatery   {Lacon}   //   Central Illinois natives Jeff “Fro” Gilkerson and wife Stephanie Gilkerson tested their recipes for rubs and sauces with their children, family and friends for around 25 years before opening Fro-Smokes Meatery near the banks of the Illinois River. Utilizing a 20 ft.-long multipurpose smoker trailer, the Gilkersons offer a number of traditional smoked meats with classic, time-tested seasonings. The restaurant is open Thursdays through Sundays.

Hickory River Smokehouse  {Peoria}   //   Known for their “down home” Texas hospitality and BBQ infused with hickory smoke, Hickory River Smokehouse serves up slow-smoked brisket and other flavorful delights from a no-frills storefront. Their brisket, pork and chicken is flavored by a secret blend of dry rub seasonings and smoked slow and low to perfection. Open every day at 11am; online ordering available.

Mission BBQ  {Peoria}   //   This casual chain restaurant features BBQ and the classic sides, served in a setting of memorabilia honoring America’s military and first responders. Popular menu items include their Texas-inspired, oak smoked brisket, hand-pulled pork, sausage, turkey and pulled chicken. Tip: make sure to try their signature baby back ribs. Open seven days a week.  

Que For You  {Peoria}   //   Perhaps Peoria’s best-kept BBQ secret, Que For You specializes in smoked brisket, turkey and St. Louis style ribs. Also offering wings, sandwiches and appetizers, the small but mighty restaurant is easily accessible just down the hill from Bradley University. Que For You is open every day other than Mondays and features an extensive catering and online menu.

Slow Hand Craft BBQ {Peoria Heights}   //   Slow Hand slow-smokes their Midwestern barbecue with oak and just the right amount of salt and spices. The restaurant pairs their BBQ with housemade sides and desserts served fresh from their from-scratch kitchen, made with ingredients that are almost always locally sourced. Features a full bar with domestic and craft beers, crafted cocktails and an impressive wine list.

Smo-King Pit  {Peoria}   //   Known for their tender, fall off the bone ribs, Smo-king Pit BBQ Restaurant was started in 2001 by Mississippi native Michael Citchens and his wife, Michelle. With a steadily growing clientele of BBQ loving locals, the restaurant is now regarded as home to some of Peoria’s best beef brisket, which is hickory smoked for ten hours. Tip: try the Smo-king Potato stuffed with pork, brisket or chicken. Open every day.

Smokin’ Notes BBQ  {East Peoria}   //   Everything is homemade at Smokin’ Notes, including their magnificent loaded fries with pulled pork, grilled chicken salad and signature BBQ sauce. This family friendly, first class BBQ restaurant offers delicious ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken smoked to perfection and smothered in tangy sauce. Open every day at 11am, with catering available. 

Stringtown BBQ  {Washburn}   //   Worthy of the drive to Woodford County, Stringtown BBQ never disappoints. Named as a play on one of Washburn’s past city names, Stringtown is owned by traveling family musicians who recognize great regional BBQ when they taste it. Their meat is seasoned with custom blended family rubs and slowly smoked to perfection, and all sides are made from scratch. Open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Tim Alexander, Guest Writer

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