EAST PEORIA — Like most good barbecue joints, Whitey's BBQ isn't much to look at.
But the food produced inside far exceeds the look of the slightly dingy building at 131 E. Washington St. in the old downtown area across from Kroger and the former Fondulac Library location.
The chain places can keep their Levee District digs. The booths and tables surrounded by chalkboard walls with doodles and messages are more authentic. So, too, is the U.S. map with push-pins for visitors to mark the spot from which they're visiting.
Orders are taken at the counter, and in multiple visits I've never found the people staffing that post to be anything but chipper. Dine-in orders are brought to your table, though the strong carry-out trade was evidenced by the half-dozen folks who came in during our mid-evening meal and left with bulging bags.
The food covers all the barbecue high points – pulled pork, brisket, ribs, chicken, burnt ends along with a few nacho choices. There are also a few offbeat options: meatloaf and (on my "gotta try it sometime" list) a hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and topped with slaw, chili cheese sauce or macaroni and cheese.
Meals are a la carte, so you have to decide if you want to add any of the homemade sides in at either a small ($2.99) or a large ($4.99).
Soft drinks ($1.99) are self-service from a soda machine next to barbecue sauce bottles that you can take over to your tables. They don't over-complicate the options to the level of some joints that have you juggling six or eight bottles. Here it's mild and hot, and you can mix them to your desired level of spiciness.
Our guests enjoyed a pound of lightly-spicy wings ($7.49) and a Q Shoe ($10.99). The latter is Whitey's take on a horseshoe sandwich, with barbecue meat on the bottom half of a bun and topped with french fries and either of the cheese choices.
I ordered a plate of rib tips ($7.99), which come topped lightly with the sweet sauce. They're nicely juicy — OK, also nicely messy — hunks of meat and fat, with some tenderness to them. The barbecue beans I had on the side packed a good little zip, too.
My wife went with a "Monster" sandwich ($7.99), which may not hulk quite like the name suggests, but still packs more than a bit of heft. It's a combination of brisket and pulled pork, covered with either nacho cheese or queso. The skin-on fries on the side are also good (as are the slaw and potato salad).