Heather and Joe Cummings believe in hard work and commitment. Just like their fathers taught them. Before Moontime Smokin’ Que was even a twinkle in her eye, Heather was helping her veteran father at the VFW rib cookoff at the age of 6. And somewhere in a small town nearby Joe was learning from his father that a strong work ethic and dedication pay off. Their lives carried on and they walked similar paths, growing up in Crystal Lake and working in the service industry. Their paths would eventually cross at a local bar and friendship turned romance turned marriage became the first step to what would eventually become Moontime Smokin’ Que. A wonderfully rustic and charming BBQ joint in downtown Crystal Lake.
When asked what the inspiration was behind Moontime, both Joe and Heather emphatically responded, “Having something of our own.” They were happy working in the service industry, after all, they love people and community, and most importantly, are hard workers, still, there was a yearning for something more. And while both were content with their life as it was comfortable, predictable and enjoyable, it was also hectic working opposite shifts with little time together. All of that changed one uneventful day when Joe brought home a smoker. Not your average home appliance that fits on your back porch, but an enormous twelve-foot industrial smoker. Ever the dreamer, Heather was in for the adventure. However, like many fun, new passion projects, it was slowly pushed to the back burner as life just kept moving. Two years passed and neither Heather nor Joe could ignore the giant smoker in the proverbial room any longer, and their passion was revisited with a renewed sense of determination. Their time was spent working their respective jobs before coming home late at night to play with recipes and cook under the night sky together. As Joe likes to say “If you want to eat BBQ in the daytime, you have to cook it in the Moontime.” As they started to perfect their craft, cooking for friends and family gatherings, they realized they needed more input, after all your mom is always going to say “Great job, sweetie.” So came Smokin’ Sundays at Joe’s place of employment, a local bar, Labemi’s. With a full kitchen that happened to be closed on Sundays, Labemi’s offered a perfect place for Heather and Joe to debut their BBQ to friends, family, and locals. They were looking for honest feedback and feedback they got. Smokin’ Sundays became a local secret and fan favorite, spread by good old-fashioned word of mouth. The people loved it. And the people wanted more. So, Heather and Joe worked harder still and rented a kitchen from Ralph’s General Store on the West end of Crystal Lake. First offering catering and then moving to carry out. Still the demand grew. Moontime rented a booth at Lakeside Fest and people began buzzing. WHERE could they get more of this delicious tangy BBQ!? So, with their trademark determination and perseverance Joe and Heather opened the doors to a full-service restaurant and bar at 88 Railroad St. in downtown Crystal Lake. A beautiful brick building directly across the train station.
And there it is. The American Dream. Having something that you can call your own. This is what started Heather and Joe Cummings down the path that led to Moontime Smokin’ Que, but what kept them going was the resilience instilled in them by their fathers. And although Heather and Joe’s fathers are no longer here, both Big John and Leroy are able to see the dream take flight. They were able to witness light in their children’s eyes as the result of their blood, sweat and tears began to take shape. And today Joe and Heather know they’re proudly looking on. So, the next time you’re there, enjoying some smoked brisket and maybe sipping on their signature ‘porch swing’ cocktail, make sure to heed the two silver plaques above the bar. Big John and Leroy. The very names given to the two smokers that keep Heather and Joe’s dream alive every day.
Joe's Motto: "If you want to eat BBQ in the daytime, you have to cook it in the 'Moontime'!"