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Friday, January 17, 2014

Remembering Shyler's in Evansville

Editor's note: Barbecued Adventures will be relaunched in early 2014 with new posts about barbecue, pitmasters and related travel. This post dates back to July 4, 2011 and now is a remembrance of Shyler's Bar-B-Q and Wood Fired Grill, which closed after a fire on Dec. 9, 2012. Thank you for reading and place come back often.     

Most biographies about barbecue restaurants focus on a family tradition or successes in cooking competitions throughout the Deep South.

The founders of Shyler’s BBQ and Wood Fired Grill, located in Evansville, Ind., aren’t too shy to tell you that they previously ran a series of Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Rax restaurants. They also had a Dog-N-Suds restaurant in Newton, Ill.

But by 1990, J.B. and Marla Simmons got the itch to start up something better, a family restaurant. Even though TV show “Happy Days” had ended its network run in 1984, J.B. remained nostalgic about the 1950s and wanted to reproduce its history in his next venture.

During a family vacation to Memphis, Tenn., the Simmons were introduced to the city’s famous barbecue.

Shyler's ribs as presented by our waitress
While others might be intimidated of the fear of being seen as pretenders, J.B. plowed ahead and worked with a barbecue restaurant in Tennessee to learn the art. 

On March 1, 1991, Shyler’s – a combination of the names of their two sons Shawn and Tyler – was born at 405 S Green River Rd. A lot of Elvis, a juke box and 1950 paraphernalia helped to set the tone.

I made my first visit to Shyler’s shortly after it opened. Richard Gilbert, a native Floridian and barbecue aficionado who used to work with me at Indiana University, was there with me and also was impressed.

The ribs were moist and easily separated from the bone. No gristle or excess fat could be found; just good flavor with or without the sauce.

Shyler’s serves both St. Louis-style and Baby Back ribs, chicken, beef brisket as well as pulled meats.

Over the years, my family and I have eaten at Shyler’s many times. We’ve enjoyed seeing the expansion of the menu to include prime rib and other steaks, burgers, fried chicken and catfish and bourbon chicken.

If you want a 64-ounce steak for four, you will find it at Shyler’s. However, as evidenced by the pictures you see here, pork ribs are their specialty. We last ate here in mid-June.

Today, Shyler's sits quiet. According to media reports, the Simmons family hopes to reopen the restaurant in 2014.

I’m rooting that they can keep things going in the right direction.

Shyler's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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