Randy Ackerman knows people will like his barbecued chicken, ribs, pulled pork, brats and beef brisket. He knows they'll be surprised at the warm, friendly atmosphere inside his new restaurant.
The biggest challenge is just getting customers in the door of Randy's House of Bar-B-Que in Troy.
"It's an ugly building (on the outside)," he said with a grin. "It's not very inviting."
Randy, 61, of Marine, was referring to a local landmark at the crossroads of Troy-O'Fallon Road and U.S. 40. It once served as a train station.
In the past 50 years, the building has mostly housed taverns. Owners built several additions and covered the exterior with tan siding.
"My dad used to pinch pennies against that wall when he was a kid," Randy said, pointing to an exposed brick wall in the dining room. "He's 86. His dad brought him in here."
Those memories caused customer Gary Mersinger to nod at the other end of the massive wooden bar.
He was drinking a beer and eating a barbecued brat, which came with a side as part of the $5 lunch special. The brat ran the length of two hot-dog buns.
"There's a lot of history in this place," said Gary, 63, of rural Troy, noting the old grain elevator still stands next door.
"My dad used to come here when it was the Elevator Tavern, mostly to get sodas when he was delivering grain. This was where the farmers hung out."
Gary raved about Randy's barbecue, and so did a group of Troy Public Works Department employees who filed in at the same time.
"The food's good," said Jerome Wildhaber, 35, of Troy. "We used to go to Maryville to get it. We drove out of our way. Now we come here."
Randy opened the first House of Bar-B-Que in Maryville in 2010. He closed it three months ago after the village outlawed video gaming. There's also a Highland location.
Randy is best known for Randy's Restaurant in Troy, which he owned with his wife, Carol, for 18 years. It burned in an electrical fire in 1999.
Randy smokes his barbecue at a concession building at one of his other businesses, Gordy Mac Fields Softball Center. He uses rubs and seasonings instead of slathering the meat in sauce.
"I think that's the way it should be," he said. "I don't know what kind of sauce you like. I have four kinds of sauce. Hopefully, I'll cook the meat right, and you can put on your own sauce."
The restaurant serves snoots on Saturdays, "burnt ends" (brisket points), a few Cajun dishes and salads. Carol whips up homemade pizzas.
"The buffalo chicken pizza is to die for," said server Kristi Sutter, 28, of Troy. "I've never had anything like it."
Carol and her daughter, Micki Salvage, followed an automotive theme in the dining room by decorating with brightly painted hubcaps and antique car parts.
Randy plays blues on the stereo and occasionally hosts live music. Today, Harold and Mike will perform classic rock and blues from 4 to 8 p.m.
The menu makes no apologies for the restaurant's plastic silverware and paper towels, emphasizing the focus is on cold drinks, friendly service and great barbecue.
"The food is phenomenal at this place," said general manager Shelly Beers, 47, of Edwardsville. "No one has ever complained about the food here -- ever."
At a glance
What: Randy's House of Bar-B-Que
Where: 1595 Troy-O'Fallon Road (at U.S. 40) in Troy
Kitchen hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (pizza available later)
Bar hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Music: Occasional; Harold and Mike from 4 to 8 p.m. today
Information: Call 667-7227 or visit www.randysbbq.com
On the menu
Pulled pork sandwich -- Regular 6-ounce with two sides, $6.75 ($7.95 for 8-ounce)
Beef brisket platter -- Regular 10-ounce with two sides, $9.95 ($10.75 for 12-ounce)
Babyback ribs -- $12.99 for half a rack with two sides ($19.99 for full)
Jambalaya -- With spicy andouille sausage and chicken, $7.95
Buffalo chicken pizza -- Chicken, cheese, ranch and spicy wing sauce, $11.99
BBQ nachos -- Choice of pulled pork, chicken or brisket, $7.95
Chef salad -- Lettuce, tomato, cheese, turkey, ham and egg, $7.95