Jackson, Missouri's, Wib's BBQ Drive-In was born the same year I was, 1947. I don't think my parents took me straight from the St. Francis Hospital to Wib's, but my grandson, Malcolm, below, was still in diapers when he made his first pilgrimage.
My buddy, Chuck Keefer, has been bragging about South Carolina BBQ, so I felt it was time to write about the best barbecue sandwiches in the universe and set him straight.
When we were in Cape Girardeau last fall, I managed to make four visits to the place, much to my mother's chagrin. We figured that at least five generations of our family have eaten there over the years.
I practically lived there
I practically lived at Wib's when I was working for The Jackson Pioneer in the mid-60s.
The sandwiches were cheap and they made the best shakes in town. (Unfortunately, they quit making shakes several years ago and the wonderful homemade pies are history, too.)
Best of all, it was located just down the road from the newspaper and courthouse and almost right next to a small park with a municipal swimming pool that was a great source of wild art.
(Nah, Jackson wasn't THAT wild. Wild art is newspaperspeak for pictures that can run without a story. Think cute kids and animals.)
What's special about the BBQ?
I don't know. My mother claims that no pigs are hurt in the making of the sandwiches, and I have to concede that they are a little light on meat.
On the other hand, what's there is nicely smoked and touched off with a peppery sauce that doesn't overwhelm the taste of the meat. If you order a Brown Hot (the brown, outside, smokier part of the shoulder) with hot sauce, you'd better have a drink handy.
Smoked with Hickory wood
A short history of Wib's is printed on the back of the menu. It was founded by Wib Lohman, who had a trucking company. He started out selling barbecue sandwiches to his drivers.
The original smoker used hickory and nothing has changed.
The outside doesn't look like much
It's just a concrete block building painted white. There's plenty of parking and a walk-up area on one side. The front door was always notoriously hard to open, but that was solved when a local teenager ran into the front of the building June 17, 2008, doing about $25,000 in damage.
He fessed up to his parents and restitution was made. The front windows were changed to deeper ones and the balky front door was replaced.
One wag remarked, “That poor kid will have to leave town. He's going to be known as the boy who drove into Wib's for the rest of his life.”
Wib sold Wib's in 1948
Wib Lohman got tired of running a seven-day-a-week, 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. business and sold it to Jack and Sweetie Hoffmeister, who ran it until 1972, when it passed on to A.D. Hoffman. It stayed in the Hoffman family when A.D.'s son and his wife took it over in 1986.
300 sandwiches go out at lunchtime
Wib's opens at 8:30 a.m. (mostly for coffee drinkers; they usually sell less than 10 sandwiches before 11 a.m.) and stays open until 6:45 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Saturday they're open 9 – 6:45. They're closed Sundays and Mondays.
Prime time is the lunch rush when about 300 sandwiches are served.
Wib's had four car hops
In the Old Days, the place had four car hops to handle drive-up orders. If you don't want to eat inside, these days you can go inside to a walk-up window to place your to-go order.
Every kid in Jackson must have worked there at one time or another. Many started in high school and continued through college. At least one couple met while working at Wib's and the proposal took place in the parking lot.
Wib's even has a Facebook Fan area with 500 members.
Wib's Drive In, 1204 N. High St., Jackson, MO
13 Replies to “Wib’s Drive In BBQ – A Five-Generation Favorite”
Brown Hots….yummy. And when they add the pimento cheese to it, even MORE yummy.
Too bad about the milkshakes that would have been a nice compliment to those sandwiches because I always want something more when I go there, even with two sandwiches and fries.
Could be heading to that zip code soon, want me to ship you some Wib’s brown hots?
The milkshakes were the perfect cool-down drink for the brown hots. I don’t think you’re old enough to remember the homemade pies they used to serve.
They were honest-to-goodness homemade pies that got knocked out by health regs that prohibited home-cooked food from being served in restaurants.
I was surprised to learn that their fries were store-bought. “Premium” fries, but still store-bought. When you go in next time, see if you can find out the brand and where they get them.
We’ll be back in the fall, so I don’t think it’s going to be necessary for you to Fed-Ex me one. Check with Farmer Matt, though.
I told Dee to fax me one. That’s faster, cheaper and she can eat the sandwich after she sends it.
I never was big on the pimento cheese combinations. That added just too much sweetness to the sandwich.
The meal’s not done if you don’t take a peppermint patty mint on the way out the door.
I forgot to mention the rather strange bathroom arrangement: it’s one door opening up into a coed sink area, with gender-specific doors off that.
It’s fun to watch the confusion when a newbie steps in.
i’m going to jackson next week and if i’m lucky i’ll eat so many outside combinations i’ll explode! i don’t know if i can wait til next thursday to finally taste them again!!!!
Eat a brown hot for me, but leave off the cheese. I always thought the combination was just a little too sweet.
I forgot to mention that I always order their slaw, too. I don’t care much for it by itself, but I put it on my sandwich.
A story in the July 21, 2009, Southeast Missourian says that Wib’s is going to expand:
“A Jackson institution is expanding. Wib’s Drive In has outgrown its present space at 1204 N. High St. and is adding to both ends of its building to enlarge its dining and kitchen space, according to plans submitted to the City of Jackson building and planning division. Other upgrades include an air-lock vestibule, which will keep the interior climate more consistent, energy efficient and comfortable. Parking will be relocated from the front of the building to the sides.”
I love a comment posted by someone named gehagge: “If they need a few holes in their building and really cheap labor, I know a kid who can knock them down with his car.”
Like I said in the original story. That poor kid will never live it down.
Awesome write-up! Love the photos.
ken, love the pic,s and the stories. when i was home last summer i made a stop at wibs.i kept looking looking at the girl waiting on us when it dawned on me who it was.roger mahan,s niece
,and another generation helps make great memories
My family and I have been to Wibs so many times, but no where near enough times! my favorite sandwich is that awesome pimento cheese, too good!
two of my fondest memories are as a child going to Wibs, and smelling the unforgetable aroma of smoked wood the moment we got out of the car, and the small creek that runs behind Wibs.
and since then I have taken my own children there,now their grown, but we still keep coming back.
Whers the meat????
Ken, I read your article on Wib’s and it brought back memories of the Blue Hole BBQ in Cape. After many years away from Cape I returned to visit ,only to find that the Blue Hole was no longer. A local told me that Wib’s in Jackson was the closest thing to the Blue Hole taste. Even though Jackson was one of our rivals in High School, I took a chance and ventured there for a sample of Wib’s ware. I was pleasantly surprised,it was Great. I wonder if they sell their sauce,I would like to get some, to show the folks in North Carolina what a real BBQ sandwich is supposed to taste like ?
I’ve written about the Blue Hole more on my Cape Girardeau blog:
Here’s a story about Blue Hole’s history with lots of comments from locals.
Here’s a place some folks say is just as good. I’m not sure I buy that, but Hamburger Express puts a lot more meat on their sandwiches than Wib’s. Their ribs are great. They sell them cold, wrapped in tin foil. We froze a couple of racks and eat themtwo or three ribs a time as snacks. There’s enough meat that they’ll last a couple of days.
Wib’s sauce, unfortunately, isn’t for sale. That’s a shame, because I’d buy my sandwiches dry from Hamburger Express and put Wib’s sauce on them. That’d be the best of all worlds.
Brown Hots, who in the heck calls them brown hots I have been coming down here thru the various owners and never heard them called that, however they are my favorite, its not about the quantity but the originality of them; locals maybe don’t talk them up as much as I but since I only get them every so many months, its a welcome rarity, something about the sandwich bread and the wax paper in the steamer; in addition I never can make up my mind but I think the real way to eat is break the bank and collect them all’ do it like a sampler at a micro brewery’ hot, regular, mince, combination and my personal favorite the outside. I think of them like the white castle of Jackson, however much better eats than that. However there are other great institutions here and Estes and Pilot House, you have to try them all.
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