The history of Jethro’s BBQ

The 21 steps Jethro took to make history

Our Story

Step #1

Learning

Learning

As the legend of Jethro’s BBQ grows you must travel back in time to understand why and how a BBQ restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa has become “World Famous” in just five short years. The creator, founder and owner of Jethro’s, Bruce Gerleman began his career with a marketing degree from Wichita State University. He..Read More

Step #2

Doing

The year was 1998. Bruce decided that what Des Moines needed was a fine dining fresh seafood restaurant. He opened Splash Seafood Bar & Grill in his Historic Homestead Building at 3rd and Locust. Splash serves jet fresh seafood flown in from Hawaii, Seattle and Boston and features one of the Midwest’s premier wine list. Splash..Read More

Step #3

Searching

With this background, Bruce’s youngest daughter Anna, moved to Austin, Texas to go to school and to eventually become a neonatal flight nurse. While visiting Anna, they ate at many of the famous BBQ restaurants throughout Texas. After one such trip, he returned to Des Moines and said to Splash Chef, Dominic Iannarelli, “we should..Read More

Step #4

Smokin!

The purchase of a 750 lb. capacity wood fired smoker inspired Dominic to begin testing dozens of different recipes and BBQ rub sauces. Week after week went by as these recipes were perfected and tested on Splash employees and customers. In the Splash kitchen were born all of the amazing recipes for the side dishes..Read More

Step #5

Taking Care of Business

Jethro’s was an instant success and gained national fame. People from both the East and West Coast soon heard about Jethro’s BBQ. Bruce thought for a little bit more and went down to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office and incorporated Jethro’s BBQ, Inc. Jethro was now, officially an Iowa corporation, and that is a..Read More

Step #6

Partnering

Jethro has a rule that he doesn’t have partners or do partnerships, but he broke his own rule when he became a strong partner of Drake University and Drake Athletics. Jethro loves the Bulldogs. As a sign of his affection, he had a large blimp built with his name and the Drake Bulldog logo on..Read More

Step #7

Marketing & Man vs. Food

On another day in 2008, Jethro’s BBQ learned it had been chosen as one the 100 BEST BBQ RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA. A book had been written about all of the great BBQ restaurants in the country, included in the book was the story of Jethro’s BBQ, in Des Moines, not yet even one year old...Read More

Step #8

Growing

It was a charity fundraising event, in the spring of 2010, that brought Bruce to Prairie Meadows horse track and casino for a Make A Wish event in Altoona. As he drove out of the parking lot, he looked across the street to see a vacant Godfather’s Pizza for sale. Within 3 days, he made..Read More

Step #9

ESPN

Time passed… and in the spring of 2011, ESPN Sports called Jethro’s to inform him that THE ADAM EMMENECKER CHALLENGE had been nominated as the ‘ National Fanwich of the Year’. Jethro’s had been asked to compete with over 100 other sandwiches from around the nation, in a contest to determine the best and most..Read More

Step #10

Go West Young Man

Meanwhile, Bruce had been scouting the Western suburbs of Des Moines searching for another spot where there weren’t any other restaurants. Jethro always thinks it is smarter to build a restaurant where there isn’t any other. A lease was signed on August 9, 2011, for the building at 9350 University in West Des Moines. Construction..Read More

Step #11

Manliest in the Midwest

While all of this was going on, MENS HEALTH MAGAZINE called one day to announce that Jethro’s BBQ had been nominated as one of the finalist for ‘The Manliest Restaurant in the Midwest’. Jethro’s would compete for the crown against four other semi-finalist from Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis and Nebraska. Readers and subscribers from around..Read More

Step #12

Going North to Ankeny

The story continues… one night, as Jethro slept… he dreamed of a paradise where his family lived and fished every day on a lake full of walleye. Jethro awoke, and began exploring the north woods. His dream soon came true as he discovered a secluded lake, built his dream house, shot a moose, elk and..Read More

Step #13

The Discovery Channel

January of 2013 brought more national and international exposure to Jethro’s, as THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL premiered their new series titled “The United States of Bacon”. To kick off the new season camera crews came to the heart of bacon country, Des Moines, Iowa and featured THE JETHRO SANDWICH at the Jethro’s Jambalaya location. Once again..Read More

Step #14

One Amazing Woman! World Eating Champion!

Molly Schulyler, all 5’5″, 120 pounds of her electrified the State of Iowa when she crossed the border from her native Bellevue, Nebraska into Iowa to take on the Adam Emmenecker Challenge. The Challenge of course is to eat the 5 pound sandwich and waffle fries in 15 minutes or less. Thousands had tried, only..Read More

Step #15

The Pork Chop Grill

There are over 21,000,000 pigs in Iowa and more than 6,000 restaurants. Not one of those restaurants has ever paid homage to the pig the way in which the new Jethro’s BBQ n’ Pork Chop Grill does. Ground was broken on the new Pork Chop Grill in July of 2013. The new 6,500 square foot..Read More

Step #16

William Shatner Calls

Burbank, Rodeo Drive , Beverly Hills, The Slawson Cut Off, it all came true to life for Jethro when William Shatner called and invited Bruce and Chef Dom to be on his new TV show “Moving America Forward”. Mr. Shatner’s Show spotlights entrepeneurs that have prospered and helped move America forward during the midst of..Read More

Step #17

Bacon Bacon Bacon (By the Ton)

No, you are not seeing double. October of 2014 brought the opening of Jethro’s BBQ n’ Bacon Bacon in West Des Moines. The newest Jethro’s serves our wonderful BBQ and Breakfast Always. The menu features Buckets of Bacon, Hand carved Bacon Steak Sandwiches, Triple Bacon Burgers, Bacon wrapped ribs, Chocolate Covered Bacon, tator tot casserole..Read More

Step #18

The Origins of Jethro

The first known reference on our planet to a man named Jethro was in the OLD TESTAMENT. It seems the biblical Jethro married one of the daughters of Moses and spent the rest of his days being a good son in law, procreating, and then helping Moses lead the Jews to the “Promised Land”. The..Read More

Step #19

Ames

2017 brings a new chapter in the life of Jethro. Bruce has been searching in Ames for several years to find a new home for Jethro. Ames is of course home to Iowa State University and a lot of rabid Cyclone sports fans. What better city than to build the largest sports bar in the..Read More

Step #20

Jethro is a biker

Jethro is a biker. He thinks best on his bike. RAGBRAI is his favorite. Southern Hills called. Jethro answered the call and built a palace that cannot be found anywhere in town. Big Foot was invited along too. Mythology prevails. Now Jethro and his family are proud as a peacock to welcome you to Jethro’s..Read More

Step #21

Service or Food?

So which is it? Why has Jethro’s been able to grow from 0 to 700 employees in the last 12 years during the height of what some talking heads refer to as the Great Recession? Is it the delicious food? Or, is it the great service? It is both. It is the Team of people..Read More

Awards Gallery

Here are some of the many awards and recognition given to Jethro’s over the years. We are honored to be recipients of these great awards!

The Cousin Card
Earn 1 point for every $1 spent

Guests will earn $10 credit for every $100 spent on food, beverage and catering. There will be no credit earned on gift card and merchandise purchases. Credit will be accrued pre-tax and will not include any promo or comp values. Rewards will be available the next business day. This credit will be applied to any food, beverage or catering purchase on next the visit the guest uses their reward card. This credit will expire in 30 days from activation.
Guests using their registered rewards card on Monday will receive double value on all points earned for food, beverage or catering purchases, gift card and merchandise purchases do not apply. Rewards will be available the next business day. This credit will be applied to any food, beverage or catering purchase on next the visit the guest uses their reward card. This credit will expire in 30 days from activation.
Guests using their registered reward card between the hours of 2-4 pm, Monday-Friday will receive 25% off all food and beverage purchases. Catering, gift card and merchandise purchases do not apply. This credit will be automatically applied to all registered card holders at the point of purchase.
When a registered guest purchases any food item of $8.95 or more between the hours of 7am-2pm Monday-Friday, they will receive credit for a visit. After 6 visits the guest will recieve a credit of $9 added to their rewards card. Rewards will be available the next business day. This credit will be applied to any food purchase on next the visit the guest uses their reward card. This credit will expire in 30 days from activation.

Hungry Yet?
ORDER ONLINE NOW!

Click Here

Contact Jethro!