Brothers & CGHS Alumni Serve Up Smoked Dishes At Johnson’s BBQ Shack

Writer / Matt Keating

Photographer / Amy Payne

Johnson’s BBQ Shack, 82 South Baldwin Street, Bargersville, Ind., has grown dramatically since its humble beginnings.

Co-owners and brothers Keith and Nathaniel Johnson enjoyed making their family Thanksgiving dinner by smoking whole turkeys. They used a Coleman electric smoker, and their smoked turkeys became a hit with the family. Keith later began smoking other meats for summer outings, Christmas, parties, and other holidays.

The word spread about the family’s culinary talents over the years, and the Johnsons eventually decided to go into business to share their delicious food.

“We started the BBQ business with our first Food Truck in the spring of 2011,” says Nancy Johnson, director of operations for Johnson’s BBQ, and mother to Keith and Nathaniel.

The food truck grew in popularity, and the Johnsons decided it was time to open a restaurant.

“We opened Johnson’s BBQ Shack in February of 2016 and continued with expansion of the property in downtown Bargersville,” Johnson says.”The popularity of our business is built on great BBQ. The reviews tell us that people love the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly service. We get top ratings.”

The Johnsons grew up and graduated from Center Grove High School. They are raising their families in Center Grove, and are “very community-oriented and civic grounded.”

They support Johnson County schools, sports, community groups and businesses.

“Bargersville is a great fit for our BBQ restaurant,” Johnson says. “As the area grows, we are here to meet the needs of this great community.”

The food at Johnson’s BBQ Shack has garnered a large following.

“I love our Smoked Pork Chops, and our Brisket is a favorite too,” Johnson says. “Ribs are always a huge hit. People come from all over the state for a slab of ribs. Actually, we have people from around the world because our customers often bring their out-of-town guests to Johnson’s BBQ for the smoked meat and Hoosier Hospitality.”

The three meat Sampler dinner is a big favorite. Customers like the option of meats, typically selecting pork, chicken and brisket, which totals a full pound. The Sweet Corn Casserole and Creamy Mac & Cheese are favorite sides.

“I personally love the green beans and baked beans because they are cooked with our Brisket,” Johnson says.

Johnson adds that Johnson’s BBQ Shack is “a true smokehouse and we use mostly Hickory Wood. This gives our meats a distinct smoky flavor and smoke ring, without the use of gas or electric heat.”

Sandwiches at the restaurant include their Pit Master Special, pulled chicken, and the Beef Brisket, among other popular menu items. Handcrafted beverages are also available.

Johnson has been happy with the success of the restaurant and says the business is getting bigger by expanding the patio area.

“By fall, we will have a portion of it covered,” Johnson says. “We also have a full bar in the back, which we opened last summer, and we will have entertainment on Saturdays in the summer.”

The back patio at Johnson’s BBQ Shack has been used for team parties, rehearsal dinners, birthdays and a variety of special occasions.

“It is definitely a fun place for family and friends to celebrate,” Johnson says. “This year we hope to bring back a ‘Bargersville Movie Night,’ which dates back to the 1940s. We are hoping to show movies on the side of a silo. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?”

The full-service catering business at Johnson’s BBQ Shack is also booming, and Johnson says that they “will cater over 50 weddings this year. We are particularly busy catering in the month of May with Mother’s Day, Indy 500 activities, and graduation parties.”

Johnson’s BBQ Shack is located at 82 South Baldwin Street in Bargersville. Give them a call at 317-458-466 or visit them online at

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