Southern hospitality on the west coast

Johnny Rebs’ cooks its food low and slow and the result is finger-lickin’ chicken


The smell of barbecue and the sight of cracked peanut shells on the floor is a unique experience on the bustling street of Long Beach Boulevard. The rural roadhouse barbecue joint, Johnny Rebs’, has been sharing long-smoked meals, “fixin’s,” and the true hospitality of “southern folks” in Long Beach for more than three decades.

The owners, Larry and Sheryl Carter, started Johnny Rebs’ in 1984. “Sheryl actually built this location with her hands. Blood, sweat and tears went into this,” says Samantha Grigg, Johnny Rebs’ general manager and North Carolina native. Even the building itself is authentically southern – the Long Beach location is made of wood sourced straight from North Carolina.

Of course, it’s not the exterior decorating that draws people to Johnny Rebs’. “We are known for our fried chicken, it’s so good,” Grigg says. “We cook it to order, it takes 20 minutes but it’s worth the wait, we always tell people that.” Other popular meals include the fried catfish, and the chicken and waffles, which is Grigg’s favorite. “I love it, I eat it four times a week. If I eat just chicken, the cooks are like, ‘no waffle?’ ”

The southern hospitality of Johnny Rebs’ is apparent beyond their kind service. The restaurant chain supports communities with their Shell Out Program. In exchange for the free peanuts on every table, the restaurant asks that people donate their pocket change for a cause. Since opening, this program has earned more than $300,000 from guests and given away over 255,000 pounds of peanuts. Every quarter, Johnny Rebs’ supports a different organization with the raised funds. Currently the restaurant chain is working with Xela-Aid, which empowers families and children in Guatemala.

“We want people just to forget about the worries of the world for two hours and just feel at home,” Grigg says. “Everyone that comes in, they’re our guest and we treat ‘em like family.”  With great hospitality and food straight out of the south, Johnny Rebs’ invites you to stop by because they want to feed you. Feel free to give the southern food a try in your own home.

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