BELLEVILLE — Reggie Lewis has a simple philosophy when it comes to making barbecue: Pay attention and take your time.
"Barbecue to me is an old-fashioned grill with coals and wood. No gauges, no buttons to push," he said sitting inside his restaurant on West Main Street. "It takes experience and cooking time. Anyone can load up a grill and push a button, but great barbecue needs attention."
The big grill at Big Reggie's Famous BBQ is around back of the restaurant. Between Reggie and his cousin Nate Thomas, the pork, beef and chicken are under constant watch.
Reggie, Nate and Reggie's wife, Mildred, sell and serve "the best barbecue north of Memphis" out of a new, larger location at 4004 W. Main St. For three years, they'd been housed in a takeout-only spot on Lebanon Avenue.
"But now we've got seating, so people can dine in," said Reggie, who grew up in Centreville.
The interior is nothing fancy. The spot used to be a Taco Bell, but there are plenty of windows and lots of attention.
Greg and Paul Gleeson, of Fairview Heights, ate lunch there Wednesday afternoon.
"Great barbecue! Great pulled pork," said Greg, 47, as he licked his fingers over a pulled pork sandwich ($2.99) and a side of macaroni salad ($1.69). His son Paul, 19, was well on his way to finishing the pulled chicken sandwich ($2.99) and baked beans ($1.69).
"They make the best baked beans," Paul said. "I don't know what they put in them, but they're better than my mom's. Don't tell her I said that!"
Reggie, 45, is tight-lipped about his ingredients, especially the seasoning and sauce for the meat.
But, ask about how it's all prepared and he has a quick reply: "Everything we make, everything we send out, somebody here has cooked it. Except for the french fries and okra, it's all homemade."
That includes hand-cutting the meat and making the seasoning and sauce from scratch.
What the restaurant offers is classic Southern-style "Q," from a side of ribs ($14.99 whole/$8.49 half) and snoots ($5.99) to a whole chicken ($7.99; $4.99/half) and combos ($7.99 and $9.79) that let you choose two or three meats and sides, including snoots, rib tips, ribs, pork steak and pulled chicken or pork sandwich. Currently, beef brisket is on the menu, too.
Eight sides are available in two sizes ($1.69/$2.99 or two small for $2.69).
You'll always find fish on Fridays, with catfish fillets (2 for $7.99 or three for $9.29), a pound of catfish nuggets for $7.99, plus tilapia, Jack, cod cutups and fried frog legs (($1.49 each).
And if you have room, order dessert ($1.79) made by Mildred and Reggie: Lemon or chocolate cake, banana pudding and peach cobbler (Friday to Sunday only).
Big Reggie's Famous BBQ
Where: 4004 W. Main St., Belleville
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Offers: Takeout, dine-in lunch and dinner. Catering also available.