Peru’s Stone Jug Barbeque wins fans with every meal
Matt Becker’s personal journey has taken him onto several paths, but his latest (and tastiest) direction is winning him the accolades of diners throughout the Illinois Valley.
Growing up on a family farm in nearby LaMoille, Becker was a research microbiologist, a railroad worker, a substitute teacher, a truck driver, and the manager of a seed warehouse before finding what seems to be his true calling — the owner of a restaurant that serves up some fantastic barbecue.
Becker began his trek into this world when he started helping a friend who enjoyed competing in national competitions.
“I saw how much variety there was with the spices, rubs, woods and different techniques people were using, and I began to develop my own style. From there, it’s just snowballed into what’s here today,” Becker said.
Once his recipes were ready to be unveiled, Becker was able to first rent kitchen space in what was once the popular Ankiewicz Deli.
“They had a smoker, and people were already used to coming here for good meat, so it’s worked out well,” he said.
He eventually took over the building, and since then, its local history has been celebrated through remodels and additions. Stone Jug Barbeque takes its name from the original business on the site, Stone Jug Saloon.
The circa 1860s ceiling, floors, beams and stone walls are original and in beautiful condition. Becker also found an assortment of old signs and other items from the original Stone Jug in the basement, and they’re now featured decor within the restaurant.
Becker said, aside from catering, that they smoke approximately 800 pounds of brisket and another 800 pounds of pork a week. Chicken, hot links, ribs and a variety of sandwiches, wraps and salads are also popular menu items.
The meat takes two days before it’s ready to be served, with the first to allow the blended spice rub to take full effect. It’s then applewood-smoked overnight before the tender and juicy results are sliced and served the next day to hungry customers.
To complement the savory and smoky meats are a set of original sauces. While everyone is sure to have a favorite, each can be considered a perfect choice.
They include the Stone Jug Signature Sauce, a unique blend with a sweet molasses base and a tangy kick; Peach Chipotle, with hints of sweet fruit and a smoky heat; Honey Gold, a sweet mustard-based sauce with a sharp finish; Soy Bourbon, a salty, smoky and sweet full-flavored bourbon sauce; and Alabama White, a by-request sauce using a sour cream base and featuring a zesty horseradish and spice blend.
And while the meats are the obvious stars of the menu, patrons require equally good side dishes, and Stone Jug doesn’t disappoint.
“All of our sides are family recipes, and our mac-n-cheese is the most popular,” Becker said.
Along with the toasty mac-n-cheese, other made-from-scratch sides include cheesy hash browns, baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw and a cornbread recipe that would make any Southern grandma proud.
Stone Jug’s spacious interior and full bar can serve groups of any size, and reservations are available. As well as regular lunches and dinners, Stone Jug can also host and/or cater parties for weddings, anniversaries, family reunions and other occasions. Scheduled tasting events are also offered.
Becker began Stone Jug seven years ago, but when asked what his biggest challenge has been since opening the full restaurant in November 2017, it didn’t take long for an answer.
“It’s an all-encompassing challenge between the non-stop demands of the equipment, scheduling, food preparation and everything else. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been a lot of fun, and it’s worth it. I’ve got a wonderful and dedicated staff, which makes my job easier, and they keep our customers satisfied,” he said.
And with cookout season around the corner, he was also asked if he’d offer some advice for those at home.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment. Food is the most subjective thing on the planet, but that’s the fun of it,” he said.
Stone Jug Barbeque is located at 1920 4th St. in Peru and is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, call 815-780-8275 or visit www.stonejugbbq.com or their Facebook page.