Before holding their official opening Feb. 14, Brian and Jess Battles, co-owners of BC BBQ, decided to test the waters of the Pekin riverfront. The results were beyond encouraging.

“We did a soft opening on Super Bowl weekend and did really, really well,” said Brian Battles. “We sold out of everything.”

The Battles family opened the restaurant at 17 S. Second St. because they wanted to help bring new business to the riverfront district. They see tremendous potential for development there and are excited at the prospect of being part of that growth.

“I like what they’re doing around here,” Brian Battles said. “I see Maquet’s (Rail House) is expanding, and there’s West Dublin down the road. I feel there needs to be a lot more down on the riverfront for hometown Pekin people to do. We shouldn’t have to go to Peoria to bring in live entertainment or watch a band. I’ve been talking to the city about TIF (tax increment funding) grant money and bringing some live entertainment to the area in the future.”

Before becoming an aspiring restauranteur, Brian Battles worked as a water treatment operations manager and catered weddings and special events as a sideline. He has always enjoyed cooking and prepares the family dinner every evening. Preparing meals for paying Pekin customers seemed to be a feasible next step for him to take.

“Who starts a barbecue business in the winter time?” he said. “It’s something that Pekin doesn’t have, and I think there needs to be a lot more around the riverfront. I’d rather see someone do something with this building than tear it down and build another dollar store or something.”

The BC BBQ menu is currently limited, but the Battles hope to add more items over time. A new customer may be surprised to find the restaurant’s offerings do not include ribs. Brian Battles described the initial lack of baby back or spare ribs as something of a strategy ploy.

“I know a lot of people have come in saying, ‘How can you be a barbecue place if you’ve got no ribs?’” he said. “I say, ‘You would never try my hog wings if we had ribs right away.’ I plan on bringing ribs in. But, the hog wings, if you’ve never had any, are something you have to try. They’re just a soft, fall-off-the-bone piece of meat that some people haven’t heard of. The hog wings used to be a throwaway piece of meat. It was the end of the shake bone. It’s slow-smoked, so it’s very tender, and it basically has the meat equivalent of two to three ribs. It’s not fatty, it’s not gristly, it’s just all meat.” 

Besides BC BBQ’s hog wings, Jess Battles recommended the pulled pork nachos as a signature menu item. She believes the restaurant will succeed partly because of the lack of barbecue establishments in Pekin but mostly because of the quality of the food, which will bring in a steady flow of regular customers.

“Everything (Brian) cooks is always good,” she said. “That’s going to be the main part of it. Eventually, he wants to cater more and do more events and things like that. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback (on Facebook and Yelp). A lot of people come in here and tell us they liked it. They’re coming back already, and we’ve only been here about a week.” 

BC BBQ is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Currently, it is a take-out establishment. The Battles hope to make it a small, family-friendly sit-down restaurant, but need to install two restrooms that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as an ADA-compliant parking lot. They also plan on bringing in arcade games to amuse children of all ages.

“We have a lot of plans for the future. We just have to take the necessary baby steps to get there,” said Brian Battles. “I’m succeeding in the winter time, so why would I not succeed in the spring and summer when people are out on the river?”

For more information, call 309-621-1087.