JACKSONVILLE - It's 9am and right on schedule smoke rises from the chimney of Billy C's Fred Cotton Barbecue on Main Street. Johnny Brown has been stoking the fire here 6 days a week for decades. "I've worked here since 1989. I've been here so long I forgot how to count," said Brown.
The place hasn't changed much since Fred Cotton opened it in 1946. The wood booths and paneled walls give it that lived in look along with its old lights and bar stools. "It's an old school interior and it's a Northside landmark," said Buddy Fern who has been coming here for years. "It's a comfortable feeling," said another customer.
The comfort food is what brings them in. Ribs, chicken, pork butt, beef and turkey cooked over a flaming oakwood pit barbecue. But some say it's the mustard sauce that has people coming back. "It's a great little sauce," said Billy Cowart. He bought the place in 2000. "I say you can use it as a bloody mary mix if you want to and they do."
The sauce is poured on thick and topped with a trademark slice of white bread. A who's who of Jacksonville has eaten here. "Jake Godbold had a big influence in this restaurant growing," said Cowart. The Jaguars have made their rounds, sheriffs, even Jacksonville's Elvis, Rick Marino. "You know Elvis liked ribs. He liked that down home home cooking," said Marino. WQIK's Robbie Rose comes here after he gets off the air. "The rib sandwich, ribs, real crunchy fries. The salad is always the best. I always get a double salad," said Rose.
Road construction and the economy threatened to close this landmark years ago but Billy C persevered and kept the place open. Now, its one of the oldest barbecue joints in Jacksonville, feeding those who have a hankerin' for barbecue one customer at a time. "It has a taste of it's own you can't find it anywhere else," said Danny Bethune.
A lady by the name of Miss Lucille ran Cotton's for a number of years and never shared that secret sauce recipe. Only a few people know it now. Billy C's Fred Cotton Barbecue is open for lunch Monday through Thursday and lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday. It's on the corner of 17th and Main.
First Coast News