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Smokin Joe’s Returns to Jazz & Ribs Festival

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Joe “Smoke” Jackson has always known good barbecue. Growing up in South Carolina, his family has cooked and created barbecue dishes since he was a young child. When he decided to start up his business 14 years ago, he wanted to bring authentic barbecue to his new hometown of Columbus. He built two large Iron Barrel Grills, purchased some ribs, and never looked back. Jackson started out by setting up his grills on the Eastside, cooking for the locals and developing a buzz. Following the encouragement from his new found fans, he attempted to open up a restaurant or two, but the street kept calling him back.

Jackson began serving at festivals and saw how the crowds there reacted to their first taste of his famous sauce and slowly-smoked meat. He now exclusively does festivals during the summer months, and you can still see him set up his grills on the Eastside during the off season.

After all these years, Jackson still has a favorite festival: the Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest. He loves cooking for the people or as he would say “smokin’ for the people”. Many of you may ask how I know so much about this man. The truth is, I have grown up with his barbecue. Having lived right down the street, I would head over to visit when he was still making his sauce in a kitchen pot and grilling on a basic grill. As soon he began serving at festivals, I was one of his first employees.

The Columbus Jazz & Ribs Festival is one of the largest free rib cook-offs in the Midwest, so there is always a lot of work to be done. We typically smoke the pork butts and brisket a couple days before the festival, as they take around 18 hours to complete. During the fest we have to rub and cook around 50 to 60 cases of ribs and 20 cases of rib tips. Once the grills are lit with charcoal and cherry wood, the air fills up with smoke, and the smell of Barbecue encompasses the whole area.

This year, the Columbus Jazz & Rib Festival is coming up on July 24, 25, & 26. We plan to fill the air with smoke once again, and hope that when you get that first glorious whiff of barbecue you will check out Smokin Joe’s.

I’ll leave you with the only advice I ever got from Smokin Joe Jackson: “The sauce is the boss, serve no swine before its time, and get plenty of napkins”.

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