ZEIGLER — Ken Knusta wanted to operate his own restaurant for several years. After all, it was his dream.
After getting laid off as a coal miner, he had the opportunity to move forward with that dream.
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Knusta, owner of Route 148 BBQ in Zeigler, said he worked at American Coal for more than five years. But he could see the writing on the wall when it came to layoffs, as it is commonly happening throughout the country.
He was in Springfield at his daughter’s dance competition, scrolling through his Facebook account, when he noticed several of his co-workers posted about being laid off. He called around to check on other people he knew, but they hadn’t received calls, yet.
He said a short time later, he received the phone call informing him that he didn’t need to return to the coal mines.
Knusta already had the building on North Christopher Road in Zeigler, so he knew it was time to put his plan in action.
“I figured if I got this chance, now it is the time to take it for I may lose out on it,” Knusta said.
He said he had plans for leaving the coal mining business before he received the call, but hadn’t pulled the trigger. He was spending many days working in the mines, and then coming to the restaurant and putting in labor to fix up the building.
Route 148 BBQ opened about six weeks ago, but it was a couple weeks before Knusta said he was ready for business. He said the customer demand was so high that the people of Ziegler forced him to open two weeks before originally planned.
The restaurant is about half a mile up the road from the Casey’s General Store on North Christopher Road, which used to be part of Illinois 148.
“I wanted do to this is in the past, but just couldn’t afford it,” Knusta said. “I knew if it did it right, it would be a good life for my family.”
Not only could it be a good life, but if successful, job certainty is no longer a worry.
Knusta hired a former coal miner to cook in the restaurant and his wife takes care of the “behind-the-scenes” work when she finishes her day job during the week.
As for the barbecue itself, Knusta wouldn’t disclose how it is different from other barbecue establishments in the region. He would only say “if you eat one, you’ll know.”
“There is a lot more to it than just making barbecue. That is why they have competitions for it,” he said. “That is what I do and that is what I life.”
Besides barbecue, Route 148 also has cheeseburgers, racks of ribs, grilled chicken and fish. To-go orders are available as well.
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The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, it is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Knusta said breakfast is served on the weekends. He said it is a traditional-style breakfast.
He said he has plans to build a new building for the restaurant in the future, saying the current building used to be a bar and needed a lot of attention. However, it would be in the same space, because Zeigler was an excellent place to start his business.
“These people here in this town are great,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better area do this.”
For more information or to contact the restaurant, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page or call 618-201-2856.