Barbecue spot features indoor, outdoor dining options on U.S. 6
First impressions can be powerful.
My first impression of Stone Jug Barbeque in downtown Peru was getting out of the car to an intoxicating smell of smoked meat.
From my walk to the car to the ordering counter, I was properly salivating.
Though the menu is not large, there are plenty of flavors for everyone – and everything on the menu is quality.
While nachos prepared with smoked meat, cheese sauce, Stone Jug's signature barbecue sauce, Alabama white sauce and jalapeños were an enticing appetizer, my dinner companion and I couldn't pass up the burnt ends ($8.99). These are blackened, smoked brisket cubes, featuring mostly the best part of the brisket – the seasoned ends.
The gumbo ($7.99) with spicy smoked sausage, peppers, onions, garlic and rice, along with a choice of chicken or shrimp, or both – I went with both – was the highlight of the meal. The soup was filled with meaty bites and had a creamy texture. It also was served with Stone Jug's cornbread, which is glazed with what appeared to be honey, keeping it sticky and sweet with every bite.
My dinner companion ordered a pulled-pork sandwich ($9.99) topped with cole slaw ($1), and I went with the chopped brisket ($10.99). After having the burnt ends, I knew the brisket was going to be excellent. Well-seasoned, the meat dripped its juices out of the bottom of the bun on the first bites.
According to my dinner companion, the cole slaw really made the pulled pork pop, so it was definitely worth the add-on. They sampled dollops of the sauces: the peach chipotle had a unique fruity flavor (great for people with a sweet tooth), but because of the sweetness in the cole slaw, they found the subtle kick in the signature sauce a better pairing.
The mac 'n' cheese was their favorite. It was the perfect texture, because nothing can ruin mac 'n' cheese worse than being too dry, and too much sauce is just as bad.
Each sandwich entree was served with cornbread and pickles (if that's your thing).
My dinner companion and I opted to eat outdoors, where there were multiple, sizable picnic tables in the shade, perfect for virus-weary patrons. Hostesses bring out the food. If the occasional fly and heat are too much, Stone Jug has a large dining room making social distancing easy. And if you want to join the crowd, they also have a bar with televisions.
Customers can walk up to the outside window and order to go or to eat outside.
In an area with a growing number of quality barbecue establishments, I've always heard Stone Jug was at the top, or near the top, and I can't say I've had better around here. Everything we ordered was exceptional, and the restaurant setup is flexible, making it the perfect place after a hike or ballgame, as well as still a nice place for a date night. There's also a kids menu, featuring sandwiches, chicken drummies or mac 'n' cheese, making it family friendly.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media Illinois. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.