For 28 years, Litho Ware served on the Harrisburg police force, gaining a reputation for fairness and friendliness.
Some of his fellow officers knew one more important thing about Ware—he was a heckuva cook.
Still, it may have taken them by surprise when Ware decided to trade in his uniform for an apron, opening a snug barbecue joint just on the Midtown side of Forster Street.
“My father and grandparents barbequed a lot,” Ware said. “They brought that with them from the South as they migrated north.”
Ware said his father’s side of the family is from the Seminole Indian reservation in northern Florida and southern Georgia. Once his father and aunt were old enough, the family began migrating north until they reached Pennsylvania.
“As I grew up, I became accustomed to some of their ways,” he said. “I remember my grandmother doing some Indian chants and things for rain. Some things we might say are weird today, but I remember doing all of them.”
Ware and his four siblings were raised in a house his grandfather, father and a few friends helped to build in Susquehanna Township—his mother still lives there today. He said the house didn’t have plumbing or running water for “the longest time,” and that the family bonded over cooking with the old wood stove.
“I used to sit in there and watch my grandmother, grandfather and father cook and enjoy that,” he said. “We had a pretty tight family. And there wasn’t a whole bunch to do. Everything we did we did as a family, because we couldn’t afford a TV.”
Aftering retiring from the Harrisburg police force in 2006, Ware decided to go active duty with the Army. He served as a chief warrant officer for another 10 years, including combat tours in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Kuwait. He’s also a member of the National Guard.
In addition to the influence his upbringing has on his cooking style, Ware said his time in the military had an impact on his eventual decision to open up Boo Boo’s Barbeque on the 900-block of N. 3rd Street.
“Service members are a tight-knit group, so they get together and have barbeques,” he said. “If you go to a lot of military bases on the weekends when service members are off, you might go to different communities on base, and you’ll smell the barbeque grills. That’s what they do.”
Ware said his fellow service members learned quickly who was the best guy to have behind the grill. Upon returning to the states, he and the soldiers who worked for him continued the tradition of barbecuing in their spare time, and eventually they started encouraging him to open up his own restaurant.
“That’s when I said, ‘No, I’m not opening up anything,’” he said. “I told them that I’m not working for anybody. I’ll have two retirements, and there’s no reason to work — even though I see it as a hobby. And, well, I ended up barbecuing.”
Sight & Taste
The family-style cooking traditions Ware grew up with have heavily influenced not only the way he cooks, but by the way he runs his restaurant. The carryout-only shop focuses on simplicity. With Ware behind the smoker, no measuring is required—he cooks completely by sight and taste.
You’ll find classic barbecue offerings on Boo Boo’s menu, including brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, chicken strips, rotisserie chicken halves, full chicken wings and, of course, barbecued ribs.
For family dinners or get-togethers, you can order Boo Boo’s bucket of ribs complete with a full rack, five pieces of corn on the cob, two sides and four pieces of cornbread. Or a large bucket comes with two racks, two sides, eight pieces of corn and eight pieces of cornbread.
No barbecue meal would be complete without southern sides like baked mac and cheese, baked beans, green beans, collard greens and cole slaw. He also serves shareable appetizers like fries and onion rings. Various options for combination platters and sandwiches are available, as well.
Ware said that his sauce and seasonings are what makes his barbecue so tasty. After years of experimenting, he believes he’s nailed the taste customers are looking for in homestyle barbecue.
One thing that likely won’t be on the couple’s menu is transforming Boo Boo’s into a sit-down restaurant. Ware stressed that he opened the barbecue joint as a form of stress relief, as well as to give the people of Harrisburg a true taste of southern flavor.
Boo Boo’s Babecue is located at 912 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-727-7089 or visit www.booboosbarbecue.com.