Owner Linda Johnson is pretty certain that Captain John’s Barbecue is the oldest restaurant in Collierville.
Open since 1974, the pit barbecue stop on Highway 72 boasts a menu that explains its longevity.
Previously a Coleman’s Bar-B-Q, the restaurant now serves everything from standard barbecue fare like pulled pork and ribs to less traditional foods like philly cheesesteaks and even catfish on Fridays.
Its all-around menu and staying power are likely the reasons that Captain John’s took top votes in five categories, including Best Restaurant, in the Collierville Independent’s 2017 Readers’ Choice contest.
Johnson also attributes the restaurant’s traditional “pit style” barbecue.
“New places don’t have the open pits these days,” she said. “But we have been using the same method for over 40 years.”
Johnson and her husband, Ron, bought the restaurant 27 years ago. The name had already been changed from Coleman’s Bar-B-Q to Captain John’s so the previous owner wouldn’t have to pay a franchise fee.
However, many of the recipes and cooking methods go back to Coleman’s, a Mid-South fixture decades ago.
The Johnson’s bought the barbecue shop from a retired Southwest Airlines pilot named John Boyd, hence the name Captain John’s.
“We just decided to keep the name the same,” Johnson said. “Some people think the name is short for our last name. I just let them think that.”
The Johnson’s were no rookies to the barbecue business before the purchase, having already operated and owning several area Coleman’s.
“I’ve been in the business over 40 years,” said Johnson, who is now gradually handing the restaurant reins over to her son, Shane.
Among the other categories that Captain John’s recently got top votes for are Best Barbecue, Best Catfish, Best Pulled Pork and Best Ribs.
While the restaurant is physically limited from growth (the Johnson’s don’t own the building), their staff has grown over the years to include 12 members, including nine full-time employees with decades of combined experience.
And while she admits that opening another location isn’t on her agenda, Johnson pointed out that her son will soon be making those decisions.
“I’ll give him my blessing,” she laughed.
Johnson said one increasingly popular item on the menu is the Family Pack, which includes barbecue beef or pork, buns, slaw and sauce.
“Families love these on the weekend,” she said. “It sure beats pizza sometimes.”
Go to captainjohnsbbq.com to view a full menu or call 901.853.8004 to place an order.