One look at the inside of The Original Rib Tickler is all a customer or diner needs to see why this 33-year-old business has remained successful.
“We have some families where we are serving their grandkids now—that’s three generations of customers,” owner Ted Johnson said.
Johnson’s wife, Sylvia, opened the restaurant on April 21, 1984, as a drive-thru barbecue spot with a small patio and a few picnic tables outside for customers to eat, he said. Little did the couple know its business would grow to become a Tomball staple for years to come where four generations of his own family would work through the years.
“We didn’t know if it was going to last two weeks, two months or two years,” he said.
Still in its original location, the restaurant’s existing building was constructed in 1992 after the first building was destroyed by a fire. The Rib Tickler’s menu still features Sylvia’s original barbecue recipes that she served to area farmers in the ’80s: from ribs to brisket as well as burgers, chicken, fish and salads.
Johnson said while the restaurant prides itself on the quality of its food, caring for customers and employees has always been the Johnsons’ top priority.
One couple in particular, Larry and Carolynn Trochesset, dined at the Rib Tickler in its first year of business and returns on a regular basis.
“We’ve been coming here when it was just a dirt parking lot and you had to stand on a cinder block to open [the door],” Carolynn said. “And the food is always consistently good.”
After several decades in business, the Johnsons can still be found at the restaurant nearly every day it is open.
“We really are blessed by our customers,” Johnson said. “Taking care of people is one of the things God put us here to do: to help each other. We always give back to the community because we know without them we are nothing.”