Customers have been calling in phone orders and packing the place for dinner since the late Frank Mangieri opened the Rib Shack, 1815 North Henderson Street in Galesburg, in 1952.
“Nothing fancy,” said owner Joe Kennedy. “The shack’s a good name for it.”
Rib Shack is only open for dinner. That means 5-9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. On Friday through Sunday, they’re open from 4-9:30.
There’s a story at every crowded table.
“My dad and I would always come eat,” said Chuck Vestal of Andover. “This was his favorite place.”
“We came here before we were married,” said Bob Schroeder as he dined with his wife. Linda.
Phyllis Mitchell got a taste in the 1950’s and keeps coming back.
“They have the original sauce for it, and it’s delicious,” she said.
Joe Kennedy, 61, started work as a teenager back in 1966. He’s owned the place for nearly 30 years.
“Just an old-time rib house,” he said.
Hickory wood fuels the fantastic flavors. Beef and pork smokes all night, low and slow. Chicken takes about three hours.
“We use quality meat,” Kennedy said. “That’s the biggest thing, always buy good products.”
Pit master Jeff Knuth keeps their kitchen staff on the move.
“Sometimes it gets to be a pretty fast pace,” he said.
They’ll serve up to 400 people on a busy night. These are meaty, Kansas City-style ribs, slathered with regular or spicy sauce they make themselves.
“The secret to our success? We’ll cook good food,” Knuth said.
And there’s a variety of homemade sides like hand-dipped onion rings, the “Shack Stack,” beans bursting with flavor and more.
“They come here to get a good quality meal,” Knuth said. “(We) try to keep everything consistent.”
This barbecue is all about tradition, including the finger bowls and paper towels. It’s no wonder the Rib Shack keeps serving crowd-pleasing meals.
“We get the ribs and the baked potato,” said Mitchell. “The onion rings are out of this world.”
“The best ribs, bar none,” added Schroeder.
While carry-out orders account for nearly 40% of the business, it’s best to experience the Rib Shack in person. There’s space for about 50 people inside the century-old structure.
“I think that’s what makes it so good,” Vestal said. “It stays small and doesn’t get big. That keeps it popular, and everybody likes it.”
“If you don’t get here early, you’re going to wait a little while,” Schroeder advised. “But it’s worth the wait.”
After more than 60 years of barbecue, they’re still serving a winning recipe.
“Make sure it’s done the way they like it,” Knuth said. “If it goes out like that, they have a great experience. They love it.”
“It’s so good,” Mitchell concluded.
It’s a sign of great barbecue at the Rib Shack in Galesburg.