The restaurant will be at 1019 Station Drive in the Oswego Junction retail center near Venue 1012 at the northwest corner of Orchard and Mill roads on the village’s far west side.
Hell’s BBQ owner Keith Richards said everything inside is complete, except for a bar top that will be installed soon, and he is planning to host a ribbon-cutting in coming weeks and a grand opening Friday, Nov. 11.
The restaurant will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until they sell out. Richards said they plan to expand their hours as they hire more staff, and to look for updates on their social media.
Richards founded Hell’s BBQ as a catering business in 2014, and although they have been serving the Chicago area for years, the Oswego location will be their first brick-and-mortar establishment.
Until now, they have operated their catering service out of a shared kitchen in Elgin or out of food trucks that smoke meat on-site.
Hell’s BBQ is a family business Richards started with the help of his fiancee, Noemí Rios, and his two brothers. Richards insisted that while he may be the face of the business, Rios is as good – if not better – than him at the pit.
Richards said his passion for barbecue started with his family’s backyard barbecues. He recalled spending summers as a child at his grandmother’s house in Chicago, where his whole family often would spend all day in the backyard hanging out and enjoying her barbecue.
When Richards and Rios moved to Montgomery in 2012, they continued the family tradition, hosting neighborhood barbecues, and quickly discovered their talent at the pit.
Richards said that, before long, he and his fiancee were constantly being told by friends and family that they should start catering because their food was too good to not do something with.
They started catering occasional events for friends and family, and worked their first official event in Aurora, catering a 100-person Realtor event for a friend in 2013.
As word spread, and they began getting more and more business, Richards founded a catering company under the name Hell’s BBQ.
Shortly after, Richards and Rios started traveling the U.S, looking for different barbecue styles and sampling the works of some of the country’s greatest pit masters.
In his travels, Richards said he was inspired by Aaron Franklin, a highly regarded pit master from Texas. He said he likes Franklin’s calm, cool and collected nature and the way he approaches barbecue like an art form.
“Its been a big component of my life over the past 15 years, trying to understand the art of barbecue,” Richards said. “Because it’s truly an art.”
Richards brought what he learned back to Chicago and started competing. He has placed in Chicago’s Windy City Classic competition and won multiple local competitions.
Richards became a certified barbecue judge in 2015 and has judged several competitions around the Midwest.
Richards said they chose Oswego because there is no barbecue restaurant in the village. He and his fiancee now live five minutes away in Yorkville, and they have catered multiple events at Venue 1012 and around the village.
“It’s local, and we just love the community feel,” Richards said. “Every time we’ve done events in Oswego, we really enjoyed the community and everything it had to offer, so we wanted to plant our roots here.”
The restaurant will feature five smokers out back, which will run throughout the night smoking meats while being fed chips of oak and hickory.
The menu will feature traditional, Texas-style barbecue, including pulled pork, brisket, ribs, chicken, smoked sausages and rotating special barbecue items such as brisket burgers, tacos and nachos.
Richards said they always will have four sides on the menu: mac and cheese, smoked baked beans, chipotle salad and potato salad, with several others in rotation.
Their signature sauce is from Riley’s Ribz, made by a friend of Richards. They also make a variety of other sauces in house.
Richards said Village President Troy Parlier and his team have been very welcoming and appreciative of everything Hell’s BBQ has been doing.
Village Board members voted unanimously to approve a liquor license for Hell’s BBQ during a meeting Oct. 18. Parlier gave Richards his endorsement during the meeting, saying he has tried it several times and is very excited to have a location in the village.
“We wanted to bring something unique and different to the community,” Richards said. “It will be bold, full of energy and family-friendly.”
Richards said they are going for an “in your face,” up-tempo feeling inside with lots of TVs, but a place where families can come together and enjoy a meal.
“Just looking at the people as they taste and enjoy the food, makes us happy. Being able to have everybody come to a table, eat food, and enjoy themselves in a family atmosphere,” Richards said. “That’s the passion and drive that pushes us.”
Richards said his father, who passed away last year, was a big component of his vision of binging family together around the table.
“I wouldn’t have been inspired to do this restaurant if it wasn’t for him,” Richards said. “He inspired me to go after my dreams and what I wanted, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Richards said while he always looks forward to the next venture and has plans for more restaurants, as a family business they want to make sure they get it right and aren’t sacrificing quality by trying to do too much too fast.
The restaurant is still interviewing and hiring staff. Hell’s BBQ will continue to be available for catering events after the restaurant opens.