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TJ’s BBQ by the Beach Named State’s Best BBQ

January 3, 2019, 11:00 AM HST (Updated January 3, 2019, 12:38 PM)
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    It all started in 2013, when Tim and Joanna Bly came to Hawai‘i Island for their wedding and honeymoon. As they were traveling back to Washington State, their plan to relocate to Kona took flight.

    “My wife and I came over here to get married and we fell in love with the island,” said Tim. “On our way back home, we talked about moving here and opening a barbecue spot so we wouldn’t have to work so hard. It turned out to be a great move. We still work really hard, but not nearly as hard as we did owning our own restaurant.”

    The Bly’s owned and ran Last Conner Channel Grill, a dinner house and bar in La Conner, Washington. Tim ran the kitchen, Joanna worked the front of the house and they had one part-time server. They worked seven days a week, with no time for play. They finally decided it was time to close shop on the mainland and open up TJ’s BBQ in Kona, Hawai‘i. With Tim’s original, homemade BBQ sauce recipe, it was bound to be a successful endeavor.

    “When we moved to Kona, it took about a month to get up and running,” said Time. “The building was a shell, so we had to buy and install everything. We also had to have our sauce analyzed by the health department, which is a requirement. That put about a three week hold on our opening.”

    It didn’t start out really busy for the Bly’s, so Joanna went back to Washington for about eight months while Tim ran TJ’s by himself.

    “It got to the point where I called her one night and said, ‘I can’t do this alone anymore,’” said Tim. “’You need to come back because we’re getting really busy.’ Then about two months ago, we got a notice from Google that we were voted the No. 1 barbecue restaurant in the whole state of Hawai‘i.”

    With one taste of Tim’s incredible BBQ sauce, it’s clear why TJ’s BBQ was voted No. 1 in the state. It’s so delicious, customers would no doubt eat it with a bowl and spoon if they could.

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    But most diners prefer to have the sauce slathered on TJ’s BBQ Back Ribs, served with jasmine Thai rice and homemade cole slaw.

    Tim and Joanna also serve up four different kinds of burgers. A stand-out is the Volcano Burger, appropriately named for the location and spicy kick. It features a half-pound burger made with TJ’s coffee rub, jalapenos, BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese, along with all the fixings—lettuce, tomato and onions.

    The menu is simple and the food is consistently fresh and tasty.

    “We use high-quality ingredients in all our food,” said Tim. “We don’t cut corners on anything. What you see is what you get. We put a lot of pride and honesty in what we do, and we love our customers. Without our customers, we’re nobody.”

    “Hawai‘i’s been very good to us and I think we’ve been good to Hawai‘i,” said Tim. “We love it here. I wish I’d have done this 20 years ago. I truly do.”

    TJ’s BBQ by the Beach is located at the Ali‘i Garden Marketplace in Kailua-Kona.

    For more information, visit tjsbbqbybeach.com.

    BBQ Burger with Grilled Pineapple at TJ’s BBQ in Kona. Courtesy photo.

    Homemade BBQ Sauce and Kona Coffee Steak Rubs at TJ’s BBQ in Kona. Courtesy photo.

    Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich at TJ’s BBQ in Kona. Courtesy photo.

    Lilikoi Cheesecake at TJ’s BBQ in Kona. Courtesy photo.

    TJ’s BBQ Back Ribs. PC: Karen Rose

    Karen Rose
    Karen Rose is a writer and journalist living on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel, arts and entertainment. She never met a food she didn't like—except black licorice.
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