Our tradition of BBQ in the Johnson family began over 60 years ago in Plant City. Elton Johnson, began slow-smoking pork shoulders out of his gas station-turned-restaurant in 1954. He was a gritty, hard-working, but very hospitable man who was brought up in Alabama during the Depression. He went to work full-time after the 3rd grade, some of his career as a truck driver and also doing other jobs. He settled down and opened a gas station in Plant City after his second son, Freddy, was born.
Elton started out selling sandwiches and cold drinks for a dime. The ultimate entrepreneur, he was wholly devoted to serving people as they visited his food stop. As business grew he added a smoker, a fryer, a few more seats, knocked down a wall, and added a few more seats-- until he gave up the gas station business. His restaurant's reputation grew throughout central Florida as the place to go for authentic, un-pretentious, traditional Southern food. Fresh vegetables, slow roasted meats, simple food-- real food.
Elton Johnson was unashamed to do things the way he saw was right, never pretending to be something that he wasn’t. He and Grandma Johnson daily built an experience for their guests with their own two hands. “He wasn’t formally trained in anything, but was driven to learn and do anything he had to do to provide for his family” Fred, Elton’s youngest son, recalls.
“I still remember him, at 90 years old, walking into the kitchen at the restaurant and telling me how to make a Pork Sandwich the right way-- not in a loving, parental way, but more like ‘Why can't you see how good this can be?’ kind of way,” Owen Johnson, Owner/Grandson remembers while smiling. “You gotta chop in finer and mix in just the right amount of sauce, and make sure the bread is good and soft. And cut it in half so its easier to eat.”
We are still as unashamed, and unpretentious as Pop.
"We boil our collards with pork fat, and we make our BBQ sauce with plenty of sugar.” We are an organization devoted to making people happy and to pursuing something greater than ourselves.
The Johnson legacy is the restaurant business and we are happy to share the experience with you.