Fishers Tips & Chips BBQ opens at 3135 S. 11th St., offers expanded menu

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fresh, flavorful and fast encompass Donna and Rob Fisher’s priorities when cooking up their signature barbecue at Fishers Tips & Chips BBQ.

Customers can now enjoy the same barbecue at a more visible location, which features a larger menu and dining area, at 3135 S. 11th St. in Niles, near the state line.

The couple opened the business’ new doors at the site of the former Dairy Queen last month.

Among 30 different menu combinations, customers can now choose a side of fries instead of chips with their meal. The menu expansion also includes chicken wings, also known as “drummies,” and perch and catfish.

The restaurant’s most popular items are the rib tips and pulled pork.

“They [customers] love it,” Rob said. “They love the flavor.”

In 2000, Donna and Rob got their start selling barbecue to help fundraise for their South Bend church, Power In Praise. Using a food truck, the couple sold the barbecue on various corners and at gas stations around Michiana, earning the reputation of “That Awesome Gas Station BBQ” or, in reference to Rob, the “BBQ Guy on the corner.”

“We had a name, but they never really knew the name,” Rob said. “That was the way that they identified us.”

Noticeable name or not, the couple’s legendary barbecue garnered a successful following. In 2010, the couple then opened up a restaurant on the site of The Country Bake Shop, where they have operated since.

Looking back on their success, Rob and Donna credit the family’s secret recipes for making the barbecue success.

The meat is cooked up fresh every single morning and is smoked on the restaurant premises. At the advice of their son, Bryon, the family devised a base that is added to the meat to tenderize and season it.

“We came up with this [idea] to spray the meat while it is cooking,” Rob said. “It is a season tenderizer mix all at the same time.”

The tenderizer allows the restaurant to cut down cooking time, so staff can serve customers like a fast food restaurant.

A secret barbecue sauce is also made to complement the dishes. The meat is smoked with a secret wood for an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes.

“We would like to be considered the first fast food barbecue restaurant,” Rob said. “The thing is to create a product that everyone can afford and tastes good.”

To keep everything fresh, the restaurant is only open as long as there is meat to sell for that day, so that there are no leftovers.

With the move, Rob and Donna said they needed more room not only for customers but more space for events, including charitable ventures. After 17 years, the business still donates to Power in Praise and also contributes to the backpack program for local students and Bowl for a Cure. The business also donates to high schools on either side of the state line.

“This location enables us to expand into the things we would like to do more of,” Rob said. “We are moving more towards doing fundraising instead of more events.”

Rob and Donna said they know what it is like to be struggling. At one point the couple had been using government assistance to make ends meet.

“God has blessed us to be able to reach back out to the community and help,” Donna said.

Rob added that it is nice to be able to support those who need help in Michiana.

“We understand what that is like,” Rob said. “To do fundraising for different [local] charities and organizations, we know where the money is going to use.”

To accommodate having more space and subsequently more customers, five part-time employees were hired, making a team of nine employees, not including Rob, Donna and their business partner, Tyrone Armstead.

On Saturday, the restaurant offers “Soul food Saturday,” and hosts of homemade desserts like peach cobbler, cheesecake, sweet potato pie and lemon cake, to name just a few.

Since the change in locations, loyal and new customers alike have responded favorably.

“They really like it,” Rob said. “Now that people are able to come in and sit down, it is more comfortable for them and that is what we really like.”