BBQ Smoke Wagon latest eatery at East Peoria site
EAST PEORIA – The site at 245 Farmdale Road has been home to several restaurants in recent years.
Among those were Sonic Drive-In, Lou’s Drive-In and a drive-in extension of Cummins Family Restaurant. Henry Marizetts, co-owner of the BBQ Smoke Wagon, said that he wanted to offer patrons a change from the fare they would have ordered at the previous eateries.
“When I look at this area, I see only a handful of restaurants around here,” said Marizetts. “I figure people just get tired of fast food. The product I put out is different from everyone else around here. It’s unique. There’s a lot of stuff you might not have tried before, mostly down-South cooking.”
Marizetts said that he had operated restaurants in Chillicothe and Peoria Heights before buying the East Peoria location last year. He added that he had established a customer base in those ventures that will help make BBQ Smoke Wagon a success.
“I’ve been here so long that a lot of my customers know what kind of food I serve, and they just follow where I go,” he explained.
A key factor in the success of his other ventures, Marizetts asserted, was quality control and a refusal to take shortcuts.
“I use an all-wood smoker,” he said. “I don’t use gas or pellets, and I use no ovens. I cook it old school and I stay and babysit it as it cooks. We make pretty much everything on the menu from scratch.”
One recent patron who gave the new restaurant a try is Matt Bartolo of Peoria, who ordered a two-meat platter with ribs and beef brisket.
“It all had a good, smoked flavor, the beef was extremely tender and I loved the seasoned fries,” Bartolo said. “I’m already sizing up what else is on the menu for my next trip.”
The premises still retain the look of a drive-in restaurant, and the BBQ Smoke Wagon is currently restricted to take-out orders. But Marizetts hopes to create a new look and feel in the future.
“I want to provide some indoor seating and we’re building a stage so we can do live blues and jazz bands every Friday and Saturday,” he said. “But, we got hit with the (COVID-19 pandemic) and that kind of pushed the plans back. We’re still working on it.”
The BBQ Smoke Wagon is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit the BBQ Smoke Wagon Facebook page.