LOCKEFORD — About 15 years ago, Al Sims would host large parties at his Valley Springs home serving up his special style of barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork and tri-tip, among other meats.
At the time, he was working in construction, and never thought he would leave that career behind serving his homemade barbecue to the general public.
But earlier this month, he and his wife Brenda celebrated one year since they opened up Daddy’s House of Ribs at its current location at 13421 E. Main St. in Lockeford.
“When I had people over to my house in Valley Springs, everyone kept saying ‘you’ve got good barbecue,’” Sims said. “Everyone told me I should get out of what I was doing and do this for a living.”
Eventually, Sims opened a restaurant on Pacific Avenue in Stockton. His daughter Ayanna suggested the name, he said.
The original Daddy’s only lasted about six months, as the building’s ownership changed hands, and Sims had to relocate on short notice.
Sims said he took a few years to find a new location, and found a shared space with his niece’s bakery in Lockeford. The restaurant’s popularity began to increase, and once again Sims began looking for a new location.
“I’d drive through Lockeford on the way to work and I kept seeing this place,” he said of his current location. “So I checked it out, and when I was first in here, it was just a dusty old nothing.”
Sims said he remodeled the entire space, which he believes may have been a hair salon several years ago. He said the space had been vacant for years when he contacted the landlord and decided to rent it.
Sims installed new tiles and windows, poured his own cement in the rear of the building where is smoker is kept, and brought in a variety of decorations.
By the front door he has a family tree of the Oakland Raiders, and along the wall as you enter there is the exterior side of a 1959 light blue Cadillac Coup de Ville under a bar and mirror.
The car, Sims said, once adorned an employee eatery at San Francisco International Airport where his brother had worked. Management decided to remodel the eatery and were just going to throw the car away, he said. But his brother offered it to him, and Sims drove to the Bay Area to pick it up.
Opposite the Cadillac is a 500-gallon saltwater fish tank that is home to Lionfish and eel, and in the far corner is a piano that customers are welcome to play.
What separates Daddy’s House of Ribs from other barbecue establishments, Sims said, is the smoker he uses to cook, smoke and hang all of his meat.
“When I’d have these parties at my house, a lot of people would come out, but I couldn’t enjoy myself because I’d spend the entire time cooking for about 80 to 100 people,” he said. “I had my hand on the meat and the smoker the whole time. I was tired of it.”
So, Sims designed his own smoker, a three level piece of machinery that stands nearly 8 feet tall and weighs 1,200 pounds.
His original smoker has been installed at the restaurant, and he’s designed a 1,600-pound smoker that he sells commercially. He also designs and sells the 1,200 model for purchase as well.
“I use cherrywood when I cook, so everything just flows,” he said. “The smoke just goes right through the meat. It’s almost like a pressure cooker, and it makes the meat fall right off the bone when you eat it.”
His menu consists of a variety of rib sizes, links, brisket, chicken, tri-tip and pulled pork. Sides include cornbread, mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw.
Valley Springs residents Chris and Irma Tabakis were at the restaurant Friday afternoon for the first time, and tried the ribs, baked beans and cornbread, and were pleasantly surprised.
“We were at the supermarket a few weeks ago and saw an advertisement for this place on a shopping cart,” Irma Tabakis said. “We drive through Lockeford all the time and kept seeing this place. We’d always say that one day we were going to try it. Today was the day.”
The couple said they were going to bring their family and friends back to try it out.
“I like it. It’s really good,” Chris Tabakis said. “For us, the meal for two was a great choice. This is a really good place. I’m going to come back often.”
Sims, who is joined in the kitchen by his daughters Angela and Catherine, said when he first pondered starting Daddy’s, he imagined he’d be serving his wares out of a trailer parked somewhere in town.
He and his wife currently live in Tracy, but Sims said he is hoping to move back to Valley Springs in the future.
“I’m totally blessed by being here,” he said. “We’re doing better than I could have hoped for. Lockeford has been great to us, they’ve welcomed us with open arms. I’m glad to be here.”