History of BJ's BBQ

Our story starts back in 1986, when Al “Bags” Norman opened a little hole-in-the-wall barbecue spot in the Silver State Shopping Center at Prater and McCarran in Sparks. It sat about 35 people comfortably (most customers took their food to go), but quickly developed a loyal following for the delicious barbecue.


My parents, Peter and Roberta Rathmann, moved us to Sparks in 1989 from upstate New York, where they had owned a restaurant for twelve years.  Dad heard about BJ’s via word of mouth, tried it, loved it, and became a regular.  When Al happened to mention he was thinking of selling the restaurant, Dad knew destiny was calling!


In August of 1991 our family purchased BJ’s Nevada Barbecue Company, and my sister Kelly and I grew up learning the ropes of the barbecue business.  We won Best Sauce at the “Best in the West” Rib Cook-Off in 1991, and it didn’t take long to outgrow our little spot.  In 1995 we moved to a former burger shop on the other end of the plaza.  With double the seating and a bigger kitchen, we were able to expand our menu with more barbecue options, side dishes, and desserts.  We also started up a catering service.


In 2011, we purchased the building at 80 E Victorian Ave (previously an IHOP, and before that, a Bob’s Big Boy).  I remodeled the entire building over the course of 18 months.  We opened in Spring of 2011 under the name Hog Wild Cafe, serving breakfast and lunch.  A year later, the two restaurants merged their staff and menus.  The final result is the BJ’s Nevada Barbecue Company you can now enjoy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Over the years, we’ve won awards seven times at the “Best in the West” Rib Cookoff, various other local awards, and our Cherry Chipotle and Bourbon barbecue sauces have won awards from the National BBQ Association.


What sets us apart from other restaurants is the way we’ve redefined what fresh food is.  We grind our own burgers by hand, grind and stuff our own sausage, make our own gravy and sauces and biscuits.  We don’t believe in shortcuts or prepackaged ingredients, and we know you’ll appreciate the care we put into our food once you’ve tasted it.


We’ve come a long way from our original little hole-in-the-wall, but what made BJ’s great then is what makes us great now, and that’s simply darn good food made from scratch by people who care.  We’re still and always a family business, and we’re pretty sure Mr. Norman would be proud of how we’ve carried on the BJ’s name.  We look forward to serving you for many more years to come.


Jay Rathmann

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Tel: 775-355-1010

BJ's Barbeque
80 E Victorian Ave
Sparks, Nevada

Tri-Meat Combo

Choice of three different BBQ meats with fresh-cut french fries and freshly baked cornbread.

BJ's Style Eggs Benedict

Perfect Eggs Benedict and home fries. We make our own delicious hollandaise sauce!

Kick Ass Fries

A generous portion of hand cut French fries topped with hand pulled pork, cheddar cheese, sour cream and your choice of mild, medium, or hot BBQ sauce.


What people say!

Your food is finger licking good. I'll be back next time I'm in Reno.

Dwane Roberts - Iowa

I love this place! The best ribs in the U.S. You won't be disappointed.

John Smith - NV