Topekan Lon Weaver always loved to cook and knew someday he wanted to have his own restaurant; he just wasn’t sure what type.
But after smoking some ribs one night several years ago with a coworker, he found his true passion.
ADDRESS: 3150 S.E. 21st St.
PHONE: (785) 233-4227
HOURS: Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.
“I fell in love with barbecue that night,” said Weaver. “I didn’t even know what a smoker was 15 years ago.”
He does today, owning and running Lonnie Q’s BBQ, a new Southeast Topeka restaurant, located at 3150 S.E. 21st St., in the “totally redone” Deer Creek Valley. It is just south of Interstate 70 (take the S.E. Deer Creek Trafficway exit on I-70 and go south before turning east on S.E. 21st Street) and north of Lake Shawnee (from S.E. 29th St. behind Lake Shawnee dam, go north on S.E. Wittenberg Road to S.E. 21st Street).
The new “homey” smoke- and alcohol-free joint, inspired by many of the mom and pop joints in Topeka, opened Feb. 1 and is located in a brand new building, in between Deer Creek RV Park and Concrete Unlimited.
Lonnie’s offers several completely homemade items to enjoy, including four meats — brisket, pork, turkey and baby back pork ribs – and three sides — Weaver’s famous cheesy taters, baked beans and coldslaw – as well as biscuits and gravy on Saturday mornings. And Weaver, who cooks 90 percent of it himself, was proud to say his kitchen includes no microwaves but only six ovens and a 10-foot long barrel smoker.
He said the cheesy taters, sort of a hashbrown casserole, are a huge seller and a close friend to vegetarians alike. And what sets his BBQ apart from the rest? The moistness, he said, with the meat smoked and tenderized for 18 hours, using charcoal and wood.
“A lot of barbecues are more on the dryer side,” Weaver said. “I’ve always believed unless you’re eating beef jerky, meat’s got to be tender and juicy.”
Hours for the “moderately priced” BBQ restaurant are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday for lunch, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday for dinner and 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday for breakfast, always being closed Sundays and Mondays.
Weaver has been barbecuing for the last 12 years, opening Henry’s Grill at Topeka Harley-Davidson in Jan. 2000, and running that until last year. He also started a catering service on the side, with the same name as his new restaurant.
But after building a loyal customer base and realizing he wanted a location to own himself in an area familiar to him and his friends and family, Weaver made the move.
So far, the change has led to a booming business, he said, all because of word of mouth.
Weaver said if BBQ fans come on Friday and Saturday evenings, it is best to get there early as the parking lot fills up quick. Loyal customers have been known to wait outside on the sidewalk 30 minutes before the restaurant opens. Weaver said on those nights, the capacity 75 easily gets filled three times in just a few hours.
Shirley Eischeid and Kathy Huff, two BBQ fans from up north, said they came to southeast Topeka specifically to eat at Lonnie’s. They had been to Henry’s Grill several times and knew they had to try the new place.
“The food’s always good,” Huff said. “That’s why it was worth our effort to find it over here. And not only the food but the man himself. He’s a great person.”
“I’ve never had any of his food that wasn’t good,” Eischeid added.
Weaver isn’t just a cook either. The inside of Lonnie’s is decked out with a musical motif, having several pieces of artwork drawn and painted by Weaver himself.
“It’s basically a metal building with some imagination,” Weaver said of his comfortable place that’s décor is dedicated to family, blues rock, motorcycles and of course, BBQ.
Outside, when customers first walk in, they’re greeted by Hamhock, a carved wooden pig. Ready to eat some BBQ with utensils in hand, the pig represents Weaver with its sunglasses and apron.
Lonnie’s slogan is “We smoke it, and it’s legal.” Weaver also has a Chevrolet HHR, highlighted with advertising for the new BBQ joint.
Looking back, Weaver said he wouldn’t be where he is at in the BBQ business if it wasn’t for his friend from Southwestern Bell, Mike Babb, showing him how to barbecue.
And since Weaver learned the BBQ ways, he’s hasn’t changed a thing.
“I’m a believer in consistency,” he said. “Hopefully what you get today is the same as you had in the past and what you’re going to get next week. And hopefully it’s the some of the best barbecue you’ve had anywhere.”