Chipper’s BBQ is serving up ‘comfort food’ seven days a week

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

From fried cornbread, sweet tea, to barbecued ribs and more, Chipper’s BBQ is Destin’s newest rib joint. 

A “mom and pop shop,” the restaurant is family owned and run by Patrick and Mary O’Neil along with their son, James. They opened their doors at 4419 Commons Drive near Publix on Aug. 31 and are open seven days a week, starting at 11 a.m. Closing time is 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

Moriah Ransom of Chipper’s takes an order. Seated from left are Chris and Janice Hart and Heidi and Ken Mori. It was the couples’ first time at Chipper’s.

Cooking “comfort food” is nothing new for the O’Neils. 

“We had a rib joint back in the Chicago area for over 19 years” known as Little Ricky’s Rib Joint, Mary said. 

But when COVID hit they had to close. 

“We couldn’t make it. It was a different mindset and real hard for small places to stay open,” she said. 

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The family had traveled through Destin a few times on their way to the Florida Keys and thought it would be a great place to open a restaurant. 

“We love it. We love it for the climate,” Mary said, noting the 60- and 70-degree weather this week beats the 7-degree below zero temperatures they left in Chicago. 

The O'Neil family recently opened Chipper's BBQ in Destin. Standing from left are James, Mary and Patrick O'Neil.

“We thought with the different mindset, different governor, different climate, this is where we gotta go ... and we love Destin,” she said. 

This is the O’Neils’ 10th restaurant to open since 1991. Mary said they’ve had everything from pasta to steak and fish to fine dining restaurants. 

So they were not nervous at all to open in Destin. 

“The biggest challenge for us ... we’re opening as newbies down here,” she said. 

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In the Chicago area they had a reputation and a customer base that followed them.   

“Here, we are just building that,” said Mary, who noted they are already starting to get repeat customers and know the locals. 

They’ve even named a few of their menu items after some of their new customers. 

The bar at Chipper’s BBQ is an antique brought down from the Chicago area.

Like Mr. Bob’s Big Triple Play, which features pulled pork, brisket and ribs served up with two sides. Another is the Mr. Hayden, which is pulled pork and brisket with two sides. 

The O’Neils have always served cornbread, but now they are frying it after a customer came in and said that their momma always fried her cornbread. Mary said they gave it a try and it came out “golden brown.” She later asked the customer what he called his momma and he said Momma B. The fried cornbread is now listed on the menu as Momma B’s cornbread. 

On the menu 

The specialty at Chipper’s is ribs. 

“That’s what we specialized in back home,” Mary said. 

They serve up baby back ribs and pork ribs that “fall off the bone,” she said. Plus, they have their own signature sauce. 

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“Being down here in the South we’ve learned we needed others,” she said. So, they have now added a Memphis style barbecue sauce, white barbecue sauce and a spicy barbecue sauce. 

“We’ll be adding a whiskey sauce” in the near future, she said. 

They also serve up pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken and baked chicken. 

All the food at Chipper's BBQ is made fresh daily.

“We have a great burger,” Mary said, which is a blend of chuck, short rib and brisket. 

“People have said it’s the best burger in town,” she added. 

Some of the sides on the menu include mac and cheese, green beans that are made in a white wine lemon butter sauce, coleslaw, potato salad and mashed potatoes. They also have baked beans with bacon and sweet potato fries as well as regular fries. 

The also offer salads as well as sweet stuff like Nana’s Carrot Cake, Bourbon Pecan Pie and brownies. 

And what’s a barbecue place in the South without sweet tea. 

“I was talking with my son just the other day and said, ‘Did you ever think over a year ago we’d see your dad in the kitchen steeping that sweet tea,’ ” Mary said. 

Patrick makes the tea fresh every day. 

Chipper's BBQ just off Commons Drive in Destin is open seven days a week.

“And he won’t let anyone else in there to make the tea. ... No one else touches it,” she said. 

They also have other beverages such as wine and a beer list, which includes some local beers.  

They also recently started a happy hour from 3-5 p.m. 

Upcoming 

The restaurant will be open for Thanksgiving from noon-6 p.m. It will serve up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, cornbread stuffing, homemade gravy and cranberries, plus more sides to choose from. 

There will also be pumpkin pie, bourbon pecan pie and pumpkin spice latte ice cream. 

In the near future they hope to be have some whiskey and bourbon on the 1876 antique bar they brought down from Chicago. 

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Patrick jumped on a plane and went to Chicago and brought the huge bar back in about 20 pieces on a U-Haul. Even the stained-glass panels didn’t break in the move. 

The booths and tables in the restaurant are a bit different than most barbecue places. The O’Neils found a prime rib restaurant that was closing and getting rid of everything, so they brought the big booths, table and chairs in. 

“I like it because it’s comfort food and comfort seating,” Mary said. 

They are also waiting on permits to do outdoor dining as well. 

Patrick and Mary O'Neil recently opened Chipper's BBQ in Destin.

For spring and summer, they are looking at possibly doing beach baskets that are ready to go out the door. 

But for now, the food is made fresh daily, and Chipper’s serves up big portions. 

“People usually take to-go boxes because of the portions.  ... People are happy,” Mary said.