EAST MOLINE — It’s been open since August. But many people are still just learning that Damion’s Rib Haven is back. And, yes, rib fans, that’s Damion Overton, as in the son of the late Jim Overton Sr.
And the restaurant in East Moline used to be called Jim’s Rib Haven, too.
The family has been making Damion’s Rib Haven sauce at 907 15th Ave. for more than five years.
But it just reopened the rib haven there because they finally knew they could handle both.
“We actually have been here in this building since we closed down, processing sauce for Hy-Vee,” said Lexy Overton, daughter of Damion and one of the owners along with brother, Justin Weathers. “We didn't really go anywhere, but (things) finally came to a head where we can handle both processing sauce and running a restaurant. So we are back.”
And back in a big way apparently at the 25-seat restaurant, complete with a party room.
Fearing a loss of revenue on normal big days Friday and Saturday, Jan. 10 and 11, because of the weather forecast, Lexy Overton opted to advertise.
The massive snow never arrived, but plenty of customers did to take advantage of Damion’s Family Special.
“We sold out of absolutely everything,” she said. Things went so well the main cook, Weathers, had to be called back in, even though he thought he had cooked a normal day’s worth of ribs. “It’s been going real good for us down here," she said.
Dr. Tom Ebalo, a retired chiropractor whose old office was across the street from the restaurant, is thrilled to see the Rib Haven back.
“Jim’s Ribs is No. 1, an institution,” he said. “I was very, very happy that they came back. Their food is still excellent; it’s a perfect 10. It’s the same food, the same ribs you expected in the Rock Island one, the old East Moline one and now the current one.”
It’s great for the east side of the Quad-Cities that the restaurant is back, he said.
“When they came to East Moline, everybody toward this side of the Quad-Cities was so happy they were here when they started their business,” he said. “It became almost like a Whitey’s Ice Cream, a place that you have to go to.”
For Ebalo, it brings back good memories, too.
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“It’s funny,” he said. “People would come in and get an adjustment and go across the street and eat a slab of ribs and go home," he said. "Every Friday that was their thing to do.”
There are differences between the old and new rib haven — besides the first name.
This one offers barbecue tacos and even a side called barbecue spaghetti. Brisket is offered Saturdays, and barbecue salmon will be on the menu during Lent.
The restaurant is next to the former Sharon’s Family Restaurant.
Why would the family shut down the restaurant more than five years ago?
The success of the sauce is the basic reason. Once word got out that Damion’s Rib Haven Sauce was available in one Hy-Vee store, all the stores in the Quad-Cities wanted 50 cases each, Lexy said.
“We are a small family and only have five people working here, all family members,” she explained. “And we ended up figuring we can do one or the other, and we need to go with the sauce to kind of give that a chance.”
But they figured out a way, concentrating on the sauce at the beginning of the week, aided by the restaurant being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The restaurant, which also does carry-out and catering, opened the weekend of the Main Drag East Moline Car Show last summer, and has been doing very well since.
“We figured we would see what kind of business we get and see what we can handle,” Lexy said. “And it started taking off.”
Like the original Jim’s Rib Haven in Rock Island, word of mouth recommendations have been a strong bit of the marketing for Damion’s Rib Haven.
It’s going very well now. “It’s crazy,” Lexy said. “It’s been awesome.”
Weathers, who was trained by his father long ago, is not surprised at the success, but he is clearly appreciative.
"I am just happy things are going well," he said. "We were already going pretty good when we were open (years ago). It doesn't really surprise me because I have been cooking for us for close to 20 years now."