Blue Hole Garden BBQ

Sue Roussel, keeper of the flame for the 1950s Centralites, read about my quest for a photo of the original Blue Hole Garden BBQ on S. Sprigg and sent me this one.

My dad and I ate many “brown hot” sandwiches off tin Coca Cola tins at this joint. (The “brown” meant that it was made with the outside meat; the “hot” meant you wanted hot sauce.) The limestone bluffs behind the restaurant were great for a kid to climb.

Just west of the Blue Hole was the Blue Hole quarry, for which the restaurant was named. There was a tiny, steep gravel road that led right next to a deep, deep, dropoff that we would navigate to the top of the hill overlooking the deep pit to get to the “worm man.” He had the biggest, most lively earth worms I’ve ever fished with.

Green trailer replaced Blue Hole

Here are some Missourian Out of the Past column notes about the Blue Hole Quarry and BBQ over the years. Thanks to Sharon Sanders for saving me a bunch of work hunting these down.

  • April 2, 1928: Lake at quarry of Hely Stone Co. in South Cape Girardeau, known as “Blue Hole” because of clarity of water, is to be drained and, if it proves practicable, will be used as quarry; pump has been rigged up on bank of picturesque lake, and water is being piped to Mississippi River, about one-quarter of mile away; water is being lowered at rate of 13 inches a day.
  • Jan. 29, 1932: One hour after sawing away two bars to a second floor window and escaping from the Cape Girardeau jail, police capture the 30-year-old fugitive and return him to the lockup; he is making his escape in a taxicab, when he is recaptured on South Sprigg Street in front of the Blue Hole Garden barbecue stand by patrolman Morris Huckstep.
  • Dec. 31, 1933: Not satisfied with carting away a quantity of merchandise, thieves who break into the Blue Hole Barbecue Stand on South Sprigg Street vandalize the place; they make a thorough job of it, stealing virtually all of the cigarettes, beer, pork, bread and candy bars, and then tossing about the contents of dozens of bottles of milk.
  • Aug. 9, 1956: Thieves enter the Blue Hole barbecue stand on South Sprigg Street during the night and carry off eight barbecued pork shoulders, beer and cigarettes; Ralph Brennecke is the proprietor of the establishment.
  • June 19, 1959: Four men narrowly escape serious injury or possible death when their car collides with another vehicle on South Sprigg Street Road in the evening, goes out of control and ends up hanging precariously on the edge of the Blue Hole quarry, after breaking two stands of heavy safety wire which surrounds the hole; only a large cable keeps the car from plunging some 100 feet.

Southeast Missouri Stone Co.

This building was across the street from the Blue Hole. I thought it was an office for Federal Materials, but the 1978 City Directory calls it the Southeast Missouri Stone Co.

Blue Hole BBQ Sauce

The two most unique barbecue sauces in the Cape area (at least, in my opinion) were the Blue Hole and Wibs. The Wibs sauce has more of a bite; the Blue Hole sauce was a little more watery, but still had a good taste.

It used to be sold in grocery stores in the area. In 2005, a Missourian reader asked if the recipe was still around, being preserved by a group of fans.

Jon Rust responded, “As it turns out, you’re right. There is a secret group that is keeping the Blue Hole recipe alive. Lizbe Knote, whose mother, Ruth, is a judge for some of the United States’ most elite barbecue competitions, including Memphis in May and the American Royal Barbecue Contest, told me that they identified the sauce eating barbecue one day. This tidbit of information led to several twists and turns, and several people who would not speak on the record. The recipe, it turns out, was sold to a man in Blytheville, Ark., who produces sauces but chose not to market this particular one. So, folks who make it here can’t sell it, but they can provide it to friends and make it for themselves.”

Blue Hole moved near Central

At some point after the original Blue Hole closed, a new one opened just down the street from Central. I used to walk down there for lunch on a regular basis. It’s a TitleMax office now.

Blue Hole employees

I don’t know who this cook is. I shot him at the Blue Hole near Central High School when I slipped out for lunch one day.

My search for stories about the Blue Hole snagged several obituaries for men and women who had worked there.

  • Verna Mae Cobb Thompson, 79, of Jackson died Thursday, July 27, 2006, at her home. She was a lifetime member of First Church of God in Cape Girardeau, had worked at Blue Hole Bar-B-Que, Denny’s IGA, and retired from Wal-Mart as a greeter.
  • Charles Clemons Jr., 84, of Cape Girardeau died Wednesday, March 7, 2007, at Southeast Missouri Hospital in Cape Girardeau. Clemons served in the Army during World War II. He worked in maintenance at Limbaugh, Limbaugh & Russell for 20 years and at Cape Municipal Airport 15 years. He had also been a chef at Blue Hole BBQ.
  • Ruby Anna Lance, 91, of Scott City died Tuesday, April 15, 2008, at Ratliff Care Center in Cape Girardeau. Lance had been a cook at Blue Hole Bar-B-Q and Rainbow Drive-In.

Is this the Blue Hole Sign?

After this was published, Gregg Hopkins posted the following comment: “Loved Blue Hole BBQ if I was in Cape, Wib’s if I was in Jackson. The only location I remember was on the East side of Kingshighway. They had curb service. The old sign there became the sign for the Golden Eagle Motel (I think that is the name) on north Kingshighway, but has been replaced in the last five years or so.”

I had heard the same story and had, in fact, taken a photo of the sign last fall. The motel manager didn’t know anything about the history of the sign, so I don’t know if it was recycled from the Kingshighway Blue Hole location of not. Maybe someone else knows for sure.

76 Replies to “Blue Hole Garden BBQ”

  1. It’s all in the pronunciation, something akin to “blew ho” but never as written. Still my gold standard for bbq!

  2. Loved Blue Hole BBQ if I was in Cape, Wib’s if I was in Jackson. The only location I remember was on the East side of Kingshighway. They had curb service. The old sign there became the sign for the Golden Eagle Motel (I think that is the name) on north Kingshighway, but has been replaced in the last five years or so.

    1. Gregg,

      Someone told me about the sign being reused at the motel. I took a photo of it and asked the motel manager if he knew the history of it, but he didn’t.

      The sign looked pretty much the same as I remembered it (with different wording, of course).

    2. Gregg,

      I updated the post to add a picture of the sign you’re talking about. Maybe someone will let us know if that’s really the one that used to be in front of the Kingshighway Blue Hole.

  3. They also had Great brisket sandwiches and i went there more times then i remember. Toast and hot. but I never knew they were down on southSprigg. thanks for theyheads up.

  4. Chopped on a Bun…my favorite…You need to talk to Bill Bishop. his Mom and dad owned this fine place in the 1960’s. Still the first and for long time the ONLY place to get frozen coke!
    Bill has the reciepe for the sauce and makes it at times…Still as good as ever…best on Pork says Billy, but I use it on everything…

  5. My Dad and I always stopped at the Blue Hole on the way back from fishing in the Diverson Channel in the mid-forties. I always had (2) sandwiches and a coke in a bottle and Dad had (2)of coldestr Beers in town and (1) sandwiches. As i remember the reason the Blue Hole was pumped out,was due to someone drowning in it and trhe owners were concerned about the liability. I remember a gentleman that worked there named (Bingo) and it seems to me that when it moved to Kingshighway he owned it.

    1. It’s funny that you mention that. When I was dredging up memories about the Blue Hole, there was a flicker about chocolate milk.

      I don’t recall the frozen Cokes, but I might have had them. Maybe that’s why I’m prone to put the occasional can of soda in the freezer until it turns almost to a slushy.

    2. Not weird at all, Sally. I always had the hot minced BBQ and chocolate milk. Still do when I can get back to Wib’s in Jackson

  6. I have a picture of the inside of the first Blue Hole…provided to me by the granddaughter of the man who established the Blue Hole…William “Bill” Franz. Would you like me to email to you? Also another picture of the outside…provided by same person.

    1. Lynn,

      Sure, send it to me in email. I’ve got some other stories in the pipeline that would give me an excuse to run them.

      (“In the pipeline” means that I have some kind of vague idea bouncing around waiting for the right combination of the stars to come together.)

  7. The Hamburger Express on William St. has the closest thing to a Blue Hole BBQ that I have found in and around Cape. We always stopped at the Blue Hole for a sandwich when we came to Cape when I was a kid.

    Mom told me years ago that the water in the quarry was a vivid blue and that guys she grew up with used to sneak in there and swim at night.

    1. My dad was born and grew up in south Cape Girardeau (1904)and told us he learned to swim in the blue hole. No swimming pools back then.

  8. To me the Blue Hole style of barbecue is the ONLY true barbecue; none of that chopped meat piled on a HAMBURGER BUN!! Don’t get me wrong, those sandwiches are good but they are NOT true barbecue. We always got brown hot and chocolate milk.

  9. When I was a kid my parents would take me to the Blue Hole on S. Sprigg. When Glenn and Mary Lee Bishop had it on N. Kingshighway I use to go in every day and get a minced on toast with hot sauce. They were so yummy. Along came my little surprise Jamie, and I took her there with me. A few years later a young policeman named Zeb Williams would come in for lunch or on his break and he and Jamie would share an order of fries. Years later they both worked at Cape Girardeau Police Department together. Now is that not weird?

  10. Didn’t Mary Edwards work at the S Sprigg Blue Hole. She is the lady that had the BBQ place on William St. right accross from the park down by the old railroad tracks years ago.

  11. Jeanette Juden
    I well remember my dad driving to the Blue Hole for BBques and that was always a special treat. I, too, can still taste that sauce and remember at one time it was sold in some of the local grocery stores. I bought some but it just didn’t taste quite the same as the folks at the Blue Hole were able to put together.

  12. We Brune’s also grew up in the late 50’s eating at the old Blue Hole BBQ. When we were young my brother’s and I would get minced on toast with a chocolate milk and carry our tray up to the rocks and crawl around till it got too dark to find us. I still eat my sliced BBQ on toast (sliced diagonally from the corners), cooked on the toaster grill with Blue Hole BB sauce on it (I had one today!). Until recently you could still buy the sauce at Esicar’s smokehouse on Kingshiway. You can still buy it from the family that makes it and Scott at the smokehouse can give you their number to call if you are interested.

    When the Bishops ran the Blue Hole on Kingshiway they had a pretty mean Fish sandwich too. Bob Bishop played Football at SEMO with me in the early 70’s and supplied them to a Team “function” after the season was over. “All you could eat” deep fried fish sandwiches washed down with a couple of kegs of Stag Beer was the epitome of good living back in the old days!

    Thanks for the picture of the original BLUE HOLE. I plan to frame it and hang it on my wall!

    1. Thank Sue Roussel, not me for the original Blue Hole picture.

      Lynn Beaudean Hoffman sent me a couple of other shots of it. I’ll hold off a day or so to see if I get any others, then I’ll publish them.

      I may have to pick up a couple bottles when I’m back in Cape in a couple of weeks.

      By the way, since I’m headed back to town, does anyone have anything they’d like for me to photograph while I’m there. (Prudy, I have your wish list from before.)

      1. Ken, I’d be interested in seeing a photo of the old Baptist church just up Broadway from First National Bank. You can see the white steeple in some of your aerial photos.

        I went to church there until the early to mid-70’s. Then our congregation sold it to another congregation. It was left empty awhile later and then around 2000 was renovated and opened with an antique store in the sanctuary. The classroom space in the back of the building had been remodeled into living quarters.

  13. anyone remember the bbq place on william down by indian park. very small block building and was only
    to go. That is all I can remember. I am 53 and I was just a kid when dad got up bbq there.
    Thanks

    1. I can picture it in my mind, but I don’t know that I ever photographed it or ate there.

      It may show up one of these days, though. I did shoot some pictures of Happy Hollow and the park that was near it.

    2. Steve that the place that was owned by Mary Edwards and her male friend (whose name I can’t remember now) who I think at one time both worked at the Blue Hole. He was also a cook on the railroad passenger trains.

  14. Both Blue Hole BBQs where the gold standard! I also enjoyed the frozen cokes. That was in Terry Hopkins, Bill Bishop and my college years (all CHS 66). Once I complimented Bill on the frozen cokes. Bill looked at the machine, made a face and said “That’s Billy’s Corvette”. I said “What?”. Bill replied “That machine cost $5,000. I could have had a Corvette.” By then we had taken enough business courses to know the difference between an expense and an investment. But, that difference was insignificant when one was talking about a ‘vette!

  15. Was Mary Edwards, that had the BBQ place on William Street by the tracks, the sister to Flo Edwards that ran a cab company for years? Now she was a character. Anyone remember her?

  16. Flo used to pick me up on a regular basis and take me to and bring me home from school when it rained or was bad weather, since Daddy was at work and in those days, we had only one car. I can remember that I never misbehaved in Flo’s cab; I was so scared of her, and my Mother trusted her completely. If Flo ever reported misbehavior, parents took her word with no exception. I remember one time I walked home when she was supposed to pick me up; she was frantic and would not rest until she located me. She was so thankful that she told my Mother not to scold me, but I am sure my behind was reddened for a while that evening.

  17. OH THE MEMORIES. MY MOM & DAD WOULD STOP FOR BBQ’S ON SAT NITE ON OUR WAY TO SHOP DOWNTOWN & THEN TO THE OLD RIALTO FOR FOR A MOVIE (TREAT OF ALL TREATS) IN THE LATE 40’S & EARLY 50’S. AFTER IT MOVED TO KINGSHIGHWAY, EARLY 60’S MY FUTURE HUSBAND, LARRY WOULD PICK ME UP AT THE CAPAHA POOL WHEN I GOT OFF LIFEGUARDING & WE HEADED OUT THERE. I ALWAYS TRIED TO WORK LAST BREAK FROM THE BOYS I WORKED WITH–THEY TREATED ME LIKE A LITTLE SISTER EVEN THO I WAS OLDER THAN THEM. O TO BE YOUNG AGAIN!

  18. The Blue Hole Barbeque and it’s famous sauce was built and developed by my Great Uncle William “Bill” Franz. My parents would take me to the Blue Hole on Friday nights when I was 5 or 6 years old and I woould order a toasted cheese sandwich and a cream soda. My Dad told me he swam in the actual blue hole when he was a kid.

  19. That motel sign is NOT the old Blue Hole sign. It used to be on North Kingshighway at a motel that I think was called the Golden Eagle Motel. They replaced the 3 words. Will be driving to Cape today and see if it’s still there.

    Worked there as a curbhop while in HS and then worked in the pit and cooking when I first started college at SEMO. Ralph Brennecke, MISTER and MRS Bishop (I still have too much respect for them to call them by their first names), Bill, and Cynda were good people and I have lots of fine memories of them.

    I ended up battling Lymphoma for a long time, and Mr. Bishop would embarrass me when I would come in by telling the waitresses “He can have anything he wants for free!” I would try to come by during the evening so I COULD pay, how silly was that?

    The original building is gone, replaced by an Arbys after the property was sold and the old building demolished. I would love to see any old pictures of the Kingshighway Blue Hole if anyone has any.

    As for the BBQ, I’ve NEVER ate BBQ as good since it closed. Many places smoke meat and splash some sauce on it and CALL it BBQ, but Mr Bishop and Ralph mastered the art of REAL BBQ! My favorite was the “Combination.” BBQ on toast with pimento cheese melted on it, mmmmmm good!

    1. Terry,

      I’m still not sure if it’s the same sign, but it’s the same motel. It just changed its name from The Golden Eagle to Holiday Lodge.

      The only Kingshighway Blue Hole I can think of is the one that’s been turned into the TitleMax building pictured above. Was there another?

  20. The “Old” building and parking lot flooded a couple times after severe rainstorms. As I recall, when Arbys’ owner bought the property that the Titlemax is located on they built the property “Up” a bit.

    I also wonder if the building BEHIND is still there? That’s where the sauce was made and meat stored. Will have to go by there when I come to town later today.

    Really interesting to read all the posts here. I can remember Ralph B. talking about the “Old” Blue Hole down by the quarry when I helped him in the back, but don’t think I ever saw a picture of it.

  21. My dad and mom, Paul & Retta Thurman, from Chaffee and Malden went to the Blue Hole when they were dating. My mom just turned 100 in November. When I was a kid, we always went to the Blue Hole when visiting my Grandmother in Chaffee. After moving to California in the early 50’s we ordered the BBQ sauce by the case until they went out of business. Our Christmas Eve dinner is still sliced BBQ pork on toasted white bread (and of course, sliced diagonally). If anyone has the phone number to order some sauce, I would love it!

  22. I have posted this information before – so I don’t know why it is not here (Ken??).
    The daughter of the original owner and operator of the Blue Hole is Billie Haupt. She makes the sauce just as the original in the same vat. You can call her and make arrangemnets to purchase some, but whether you could talk her into “mailing it” I don’t know.
    Her phone number is (573) 334-1944.
    Brad Brune

    1. I saw a message on Oct. 11, but it didn’t have a phone number. Thanks for providing it.

      Just a note: to make sure you’re seeing the latest stuff, press CTL-F5 when you’re on the page. That tells the browser to “flush the cache” of earlier information and load the newest copy.

  23. Brad, thank you very much for the information. I have already emailed my wife to see if she wants to drive from Phoenix to Cape Girardeau to get some sauce. BTW, I still have two of the old bottles that the sauce came in. Probably about 8-10 oz. bottles with the Blue Hole label.

  24. Ken,

    You are correct. The office building picture across the street from the old Blue Hole Garden was the Federal Masterials office building. Federal Materials later was purchased by the Southeast Missouri Stone Company. The building roof shown in the right corner of the photo was a multible car garage where both my father John “Bingo” Morris and Mr. Ralph Brenneck parked their cars. Most days there was a steady fall of cement dust from the cement plant which covered the cars down in that area. When they were parked out for several hours they would be gray with cement dust so Federal Materials allowed them to use their garage. Both my father and Mr. Bennecke, were partners and operated the old Blue Hole Garden on S. Sprigg Street.

    Interestly many of the comments about the old Blue Hole Garden are correct, however, some of the stories seem to be missing some of the facts. One thing everyone can agree on is the Bar-B-Q sauce was very unique and good.

    Also, regarding the “Corvette” comment. I’m looking at pictures here in my office of my Black 62′ Corvette but the name isn’t “Billy”. Yes, it did cost $5,000 new, but it was a year old when I bought it in 1963. It had 19,340 miles and the previous owner was a diamond saleman for a large jewelry company. Another comment I’m frequently asked. Yes, it’s true, it was eceptionally fast but most factory experimental cars are! In 1962 only two of these Corvettes were made. It’s for this reason I had a five gallon bucket over half full of spark plugs when Jacqueline and I were married. She learned to buy spark plugs almost as frequently as groceries.

    Ron Morris

  25. You are correct, Ken. The office building picture across the street from the old Blue Hole Garden was the Federal Masterials office building. Federal Materials later was purchased by the Southeast Missouri Stone Company. The building roof shown in the right corner of the photo was a multible car garage where both my father John “Bingo” Morris and Mr. Ralph Brenneck parked their cars. Most days there was a steady fall of cement dust from the cement plant which covered the cars down in that area. When they were parked out for several hours they would be gray with cement dust so Federal Materials allowed them to use their garage. Both my father and Mr. Bennecke, were partners and operated the old Blue Hole Garden on S. Sprigg Street.

    Interestly many of the comments about the old Blue Hole Garden are correct, however, some of the stories seem to be missing some of the facts. One thing everyone can agree on is the Bar-B-Q sauce was very unique and good.

    Also, regarding the “Corvette” comment. I’m looking at pictures here in my office of my Black 62′ Corvette but the name isn’t “Billy”. Yes, it did cost $5,000 new, but it was a year old when I bought it in 1963. It had 19,340 miles and the previous owner was a diamond saleman for a large jewelry company. Another comment I’m frequently asked. Yes, it’s true, it was eceptionally fast but most factory experimental cars are! In 1962 only two of these Corvettes were made. It’s for this reason I had a five gallon bucket over half full of spark plugs when Jacqueline and I were married. She learned to buy spark plugs almost as frequently as groceries.

    Ron Morris

  26. My mom & dad both grew up in Cape and we used to drive up there all the time from Memphis when we were kids to see my grandparents and great-grandparents. I have very fond memories of the minced BBQ sandwiches from the Blue Hole! Anybody have a recipe for something similar? Thanks, Kevin

  27. MINCED BBQ LIKE BLUE HOLE:

    Ham salad toasted on white bread in a frying pan is close. Esicar’s ham salad was very close, but alas that is a thing of the past too.

    If you want to reproduce closer you can grind up some barbecued pork, add a little mayo and sweet pickle relish. Then you need some “original Blue Hole Barbeque Sauce”.

    here’s how to get that:

    The daughter of the original owner and operator of the Blue Hole is Billie Haupt. She makes the sauce just as the original in the same vat. You can call her and make arrangements to purchase some, but whether you could talk her into “mailing it” I don’t know. You could pick it up when you are in Cape.
    Her phone number is (573) 334-1944.

  28. Just wanted to say that I worked as a cook at Blue Hole Barbeque the summer after I graduated from high school in 1971 – it was my first job and I loved it! Mrs. and Mrs. Bishop were great bosses and we had a blast in the kitchen. I worked with a couple of the Reynolds boys, Linda, Debbie (Lusk), and Sharon. Fast forward to about 7 years ago when I went to Super Smokers in Eureka, Mo. about the time it opened and the scent coming from the smokehouse smelled so similar to the Blue Hole smokehouse that I commented to the owner about my first job and the likeness. He said that he had bought the smoking equipment from Blue Hole Barbeque in Cape! What a small world!

    P.S. I also fondly remember Flo and her cab service. I remember once when David Limbaugh kept crank-calling Flo on the phone in our home. He kept calling her up, saying, “Broadway Cab!” – He held the phone out so we could hear Flo screaming, “Can’t a body get some peace?!!!”

  29. The Golden Eagle DID have the Blue Hole sign. It was vertical with 3 inter-connecting circles. When the motor lodge changed names it also changed signs.

  30. The name of the person who had bbq on william st across from indian park was Bub. It was BBQ cooked the old way. sbsilutely divine

  31. I one of the posts was Terry Hopkins. Terry the 800 yard runner from “65”. I remember watching all those star athletes from the saw dust of the pole vault pit.

    Ken, you still are a good reporter

  32. just wanted to say that i worked at the blue hole in the mid’40s. Bill franz was my step-uncle. those were good days. people from all over the country knew us. About the coca-cola trays, we only had 12. it was always enough. Uncle Bill made sure all were there each day. also, we never charged people for there ford until they were ready to leave. sure couldn’t do that today. as a note my father Norman seib also came to work at the blue hole .and later opened the Pig B-B Q in Fredericktown. If i can give any more info ph 228 292 7538 leave message if i dodn’t answer right away

  33. My dad was from Cape. Growing up we made 4 trips a year from Jefferson City to Cape to see my grandmother. Saturday evening was always sliced on toast with sauce. Dad would always take a few bottles home and smoke pork roast for our homemade version until we could get back down to Cape. Fond memories. I would love to have one more sliced on toast.

  34. I was a military brat, and all our relatives were from Scott County… almost every vacation had us trekking back cross country to Southeast Missouri, and we always made a few stops at the Blue Hole in Cape… The first post nailed it… Sliced on toast!!!

  35. I consider barbecue to to somewhat of a religious experience. We were in Kansas City last weekend and made the usual pilgrimage to the shrine of Arthur Bryant at Bryant’s. That said, the Blue Hole ‘Q’ was as distinctive as any I’ve had, just excellent. However, I would be less than honest if I didn’t mention the hot pimento cheese sandwiches that were on the menu. I burned my tongue many times on the cheese so hot it steamed. I found that ordering a sliced on toast with a hot pimento cheese was the perfect complementary meal. Those really were the days, weren’t they?

  36. Can Remember the Blue Hole BBQ Well, lived in Illmo
    and had Grand Parents in Cape. That was the only
    place in Cape to eat as far as we were concerned.

    Would love to have one right now for Lunch in
    Oklahoma City, fond memories.

  37. There was another barbeque place on the west side of south Kingshighway, about where all the car dealers are today. I don’t remember the name or even the barbeque. What I remember is that near the 4th of July they had a fireworks stand out back that was just outside the city limits, so you could buy firecrackers there.

  38. It sounds like what Don is referring to is where Glenn Bishop’s Blue Hole and later the moved Wimpy’s was located.

    I don’t remember “Barn” on Kingshighway, but there was a restaurant named “The Barn” in what is now the Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church at 2826 Independence st. A few blocks West of the National Guard Armory.

    The building is an actual barn that was renovated with beautiful natural wood (in side & out) when it was a nice BBQ restaurant. Then it was completely bricked by the church when they bought it. Here is the Google Map picture of present church/old barn building.

    file:///C:/Users/Brad/Pictures/XX/Lighthouse%20Baptist%20Church.htm

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