Kenneth Johnson is a highly active member of his community and the proud owner and founder of Bro-N-Laws Bar-B-Q -- a Southern-style inspired BBQ joint located in the West Side of Chicago.
Growing up in Garfield Park (now considered West Humboldt Park) near the Bro-N-Laws location, he was motivated to open the restaurant by the sheer amount of places he saw shuttered and the overall lack of food options in his neighborhood.
“Some people saw despair, but I saw opportunity. We wanted our people to have a nice place to go to, sit down, and eat at,” said Johnson.
With an entrepreneurial mindset and a desire to help the community, he purchased a building and renovated it from the ground up. He found the inspiration for the food in his childhood summers spent in Mississippi; where he has fond memories of his family hosting barbecues.
“Naturally I chose Southern-style BBQ for the restaurant because I loved it growing up. I also wanted to preserve the technique of BBQing on an open flame that is traditional in Black businesses -- that’s what gives the food that smoky taste.”
Now with over 20 years of experience he continues to be grateful for his loyal customer base and the amazing reaction people have to all his food, but if you ask him, there is one dish Ken holds closest to his heart: “It’s gotta be the rib tips! Hearing the cooks in the back chopping them up…that’s Chicago tradition right there!”
Ken is also an active member of the community being the chairman of the Special Service Area 63, a council tasked with improving the neighborhood, he is also extremely proud to be representing Chicago for Black History Month.
“Black history is very important, it’s a time to celebrate great innovators and I also think it’s a time where we should be celebrating and encouraging entrepreneurship in the Black community…stuff for us should be made by us and that starts with encouraging entrepreneurship,” said Johnson.
Always looking for opportunities to help the community, on Wednesday’s for the month of February, Bro-N-Laws is offering free lunches to senior citizens between 1-4pm and while he has seen his neighborhood transform a lot in his lifetime he is still aiming higher, “I want our neighborhood to rival the likes of Wicker Park and Lincoln Park! I want this area to be the place to go for good food.”