Soul food kitchen opens drive-thru, diner

By Mackenzi Klemann - [email protected]

LIMA — Local soul food restaurant Cecil’s Grill has opened a drive-thru at 629 S. Main St., which will hold its grand opening next week.

But unlike many drive-thru restaurants, Cecil’s Grill doesn’t meet the conventional definition of fast food. That’s because most of the menu at Cecil’s is homemade, passed down through several generations of the Johnson family.

“All our cakes, all our pies, all of those special recipes that we design,” said owner Thomas Ross Johnson. “We grind up our own flour and stuff right here.”

Johnson named the restaurant after his late father, Cecil, who was known around Lima as “The Rib Guy.” Naturally, ribs are one of the most popular items on the menu. The restaurant is also known for its fried chicken, pulled pork, homemade caramel cake and dozens of other soul food-inspired dishes, like collard greens and chicken and waffles.

The menu features a variety of homemade desserts, like coconut cake, strawberry cream cheese cake and sweet potato pie, along with an assortment of homemade cookies and candy.

Johnson even makes his own barbecue sauce, sold by the bottle in-store.

Cecil’s has grown since it first opened as a mobile concession stand on Fourth and Main Streets four and a half years ago. Now, the soul food kitchen is a formal restaurant, complete with a dining room, drive-thru and carry-out counter. Cecil’s moved into its new location late last year and has been operating under limited hours, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, for several weeks. Johnson said he’s already had a steady stream of customers since that time. But the restaurant’s formal grand opening is slated for Tuesday, after which normal hours will begin.

“We got into it because I love cooking,” Johnson explained. “My dad, that’s something that he passed on to me … I said, I’m going to get back into that, get back to my heart.”

Johnson is passing that tradition on to his own two children, Thomas Ross Johnson II and Tanel Johnson, who help run the family business.

Cecil’s will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Current hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Starting Jan. 22, Cecil’s will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.

By Mackenzi Klemann

[email protected]

Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.

Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.

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