Ben Stopper holds fond memories of a restaurant he patronized while a student at the University of Miami.
It was called Dixie's, and it served up ribs and other southern cuisine he long thought would be popular in Willamsport.
He eventually bought the building that would become Bootleg BBQ, just off the Basin Street exit, and began planning his restaurant.
Bootleg BBQ staff includes, from left, restaurant manager Shannon Miller, Josh “Tiny” Shade and kitchen manager Josh Ryals.
"I started working on it two years ago," he said.
With its wood and brick decor, collection of road signs, and spacious interior, it's just what he envisioned, he said.
Seating about 200 people, Bootleg BBQ certainly is one of the bigger eateries to be found in the area.
300 E. Church St.
Sun. to Thur. - 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fri. to Sat. - 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"I wanted it to look like an old place down South to go along with the smoked theme which I think we accomplished," he said. "I thought it would be unique to the area."
The ribs are St. Louis style, which means a lot of meat for the customers, according to kitchen manager Josh Ryals.
Customers can choose from the full rack of ribs, brisket platter and chicken platter, and other full meals
"We have eight different sauces," he said.
Side dishes such as collard greens and fried green tomatoes are special treats not to be found in most central Pennsylvania restaurants.
"We sell a lot of sandwiches," Ryals said.
They include pull pork, chicken, brisket and hot sausage.
All meat is fully smoked, he added.
Daily specials include fried catfish (Fridays), smoked stuffed chicken breast, pork loin, and a pit beef sandwich.
Most recently, the menu has been expanded to include burgers and steaks.
Stopper said everything is made fresh every day.
"I'll be honest, I'll put our food up against anybody," he said.
Customers can place food orders for pickup.
Plans are in the works to offer catering.
Restaurant manager Shannon Miller said Bootleg BBQ is just a fun sort of place.
"Fridays and Saturdays there is live music," she said.
It's blues music Fridays and jazz on Saturdays.
"Most people think we are just a restaurant," Stopper said. "We have the beautiful bar in here."
Bootleg BBQ is on the web at www.bootlegbbqwilliamsport.com.
The phone number is 570-772-9719.