Smile Politely

Jackson’s: Cooking Up “Pit” Barbecue

There’s barbecue and then there’s Jackson’s “pit” barbecue.

Located on First Street, across from the police station, this windowless storefront hides one of the best barbecue joints in town. Inside, the decor is sparse and clean, just your basic unfussy dining room with a full-service bar area (open only during the evening). The soda fountain is self-serve and so is the beer cooler. You order at the counter and pay first, but this is definitely not fast food. If you’re in a hurry, go to Li’l Porgy’s. But if you want authentic down home cooking, then stick around. The food will come eventually.

During lunch, you do have the option of ordering right off the steam tables which is faster. On Fridays, you can get deep fried catfish (whole or nuggets) along with typical sides like very over-cooked green beans, cut corn, fried okra, and corn bread.

The real feature at Jackson’s is the rib tips. Available in tubs, as a dinner or in a combo platter with fried chicken wings and catfish nuggets, the rib tips are the juiciest, most tender part of the ribs. Slightly crunchy on the ends, tender on the inside and lots of chewy cartilage to munch on, each bite is a delight with a range of textures for your mouth to enjoy. A dinner comes with two sides and will satisfy just about any sized appetite.


Whether you eat-in or order take-out, both the ribs and the rib tips are generously drenched in a nice sweet and tangy sauce soaked up by the Wonder Bread underneath. My favorite sides were the really creamy cole slaw and the really eggy potato salad. Not the way I would make it at home, but somehow it seems to go better with the ribs.

I’m no expert when it comes to barbecue, but I can only guess that the deep smoky flavor that stays with you for hours after a meal must be the result of very slow cooking over a low fire. Like the sign says, “no steaming, no boiling” which is what many restaurants prefer to do for the sake of efficiency.

Jackson’s Ribs-N-Tips Restaurant & Lounge
116 N. First Street, Champaign, Ill.
(217) 355-2916

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