Sweet Baby Ray’s Story
From our humble barbecue beginnings to award-winning sauce, now restaurants, and premier catering — our passion for great food, and ability to throw one heckuva party and unforgettable events have taken Sweet Baby Ray’s from ambitious aspirations to a whole universe of “yum.”
My brother Larry and I started thinking seriously about Barbecue in 1982 when we first entered into Chicago’s Mike Royko’s Riboff. In 1985 we won second prize out of 700 contestants.
Over the years, slowly at first and with the help of friends and family, our hobby was turning into a business. Incorporating in 1986, the business was more like a hobby until my high school friend at Lane Tech, Mike O’Brien came on board in 1989 and helped shape and grow the business into the national brand Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce ultimately became.
In June of 2005, the first Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Restaurant in Wood Dale, Illinois opened. A friendly, 36-seat counter service barbecue joint designed to give us the opportunity to develop a strong staff and learn about the restaurant business. With the help of Executive Chef Paul Papadopoulos, we introduced an authentic urban barbecue menu with a southern flair and a Cajun influence.
With the successful introduction of our Wood Dale location we were encouraged to open a larger facility. On December 18th 2007, Mike O’Brien and I opened Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Elk Grove. Our Elk Grove property is a beautiful, 225 seat full service restaurant, including a full bar, a private dining area, an outdoor patio and a separate carry out sales area. Sweet Baby Ray’s Elk Grove is a very comfortable place where families and friends come to enjoy special times and great food. We are all excited about our team and our commitment to Elk Grove Village and the surrounding communities…
In 2008, Sweet Baby Ray’s Wood Dale acquired True Cuisine, DuPage County’s top caterer. Jean True, founder, continues on with Sweet Baby Ray’s leading this division. We also obtained our Chicago Caterer’s license and established an office in Chicago in the very popular West Loop neighborhood. Our goal is to continue to offer two great brands and build our catering business in DuPage and Cook Counties. Both brands have strong followings in both corporate and social events and True Cuisine has particular expertise in elegant off-premise weddings. During the summer of 2008, our team won first place in ribs at the famous Naperville Ribfest (the second largest festival of it’s kind), and took second place in sauce, in only our second year of competing–a feat almost never before accomplished. In spite of the difficult economic climate during 2008, Sweet Baby Ray’s was blessed and experienced a strong year in sales growth.
Now in 2009, Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Restaurant and Catering Company in Wood Dale currently has several exciting new projects. We continue to invest in growth and the development of our intellectual capital. We have hired and are training new sales staff to meet the increased demand for our catering products. We have recently introduced our new restaurant menu including a regional barbecue menu offering different authentic daily selections from the great barbecue areas around the US including East Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas and of course Chicago, as well as an International barbecue day all designed to help educate the public on different styles of barbecue around the country and around the world. We are also once again updating our vastly expanded catering menu, featuring far more than the barbecue that we are known for, demonstrating the breadth and skill of our professional culinary staff.
Unique for an independent business like Sweet Baby Ray’s, as part of our serious commitment to excellence and truly great food, our highly trained culinary team includes seven professionally trained chefs. Our courteous and professional staff work hard to exceed your expectations and we think your guests will enjoy some of the best tasting food anywhere.
Sweet Baby Ray’s at Baconfest Chicago 2012: