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Steve Williams carries on his father’s legacy at Crosstown BBQ in Springfield. He also serves as assistant pastor at a nondenominational church called New Growth.
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“My dad never claimed he served the best barbecue in town. He allowed his customers to make that statement.”
By Geno Lawrenzi Jr.
“Nothing that is worthwhile comes easy,” Jesse Williams Sr. used to tell his son, Steve. “You got to work for what you want in life. Remember that, and you’ll be okay.”
That was a long time ago when the senior Williams was trying to carve out a decent living for his family in Springfield. He managed to do it through good planning and hard labor. A master at cooking good meat and creating his own special barbecue sauce, Jesse took over the old Pascal’s Smokehouse and opened Crosstown BBQ on February 13, 1970.
Jesse has since passed, but under Steve’s hand, Crosstown is still cooking hickory-smoked barbecue along with fried catfish. Steve serves sandwiches called The Bluto, named after a classmate at Drury College, and The Memphis Beale Street, smoked pork topped with homemade coleslaw and barbecue sauce served on a fresh bun.
As Steve was graduating high school, several colleges offered him four-year athletic scholarships, but he politely turned them down and elected to help his dad run the restaurant instead. Steve stayed closed to home and attended Drury College. Three days after he graduated with a degree in business administration in 1983, Steve joined his father in running the restaurant full-time and learned how to craft finger-licking barbecue.
“My father told me to always put the fat side down before cooking the barbecue,” Steve says. “I burned a lot of meat, but I guess Dad’s message got through because my customers don’t complain, and that’s good enough for me.”
In fact, customers celebrate both Steve and Crosstown BBQ. They know the barbecue joint is more than a restaurant. For one thing, they know Steve is assistant pastor at New Growth, a nondenominational church on Weaver Street. He’s also established Crossway Ministry, a nonprofit organization that helps families deal with troubled teens before law enforcement has to be called in to handle them. He coached for the Springfield Boys Club—one of his students went on to play with the Colorado Buffaloes in the Big 12 Conference.
With so much on his plate, it’s a wonder Steve has room for barbecue. But he stays the course and serves up much-loved barbecue just the way his dad did.
“My dad never claimed he served the best barbecue in town,” Steve says. “He allowed his customers to make that statement. Our restaurant has served a couple of generations of Springfield folks, and we’re still going strong.”
Crosstown BBQ is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 am to 9 pm.