Meet Dave!

Famous Dave portrait

YES, THERE IS REALLY A FAMOUS DAVE. BUT HE DIDN'T START OUT FAMOUS.

Famous Dave portrait

Dave's Story

Famous Dave understands what it’s like when the odds are against you. A Native American kid at the bottom half of high school class, he didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities, but he had dreams and perseverance. His goal: create the best BBQ America ever tasted. 

BBQ was a passion he caught from his dad, a Southerner working the construction trades in the windy city. They always knew where to find the best ribs: the street-corner vendors with their 55 gallon smokers, cooking it up in the tradition of the deep South. 

  • Dave Cooking Ribs

    Between BBQ pilgrimages, Dave would smoke tons of ribs himself often in reconstructed garbage cans loaded with hickory wood. He laughs when he tries to figure out how many millions of gallons of sauce he has cooked up striving to be the best! He honed his craft for 25 years before sharing his award-winning slow smoked ribs with BBQ loving fans.

  • Spices on ribs

    Famous Dave would spend hours crushing, grinding, and tasting fresh herbs and spices. He’d try them dry, boiled, sautéed…sometimes he’d just hold them in his mouth to understand all the flavor nuances of great tasting BBQ.

  • Dave Cooking at Night

    It took countless all-night cooking sessions for Famous Dave to create the right mixture of fresh fruit juices, rich-black strap molasses, cane & brown sugars, exotic spices, and herbs for his legendary sauces.

  • Famous Dave Grilling

    Famous Dave’s obsession with the perfect BBQ led him from Memphis storefront BBQ joints to the huge mesquite pits of Texas to backwoods smokehouses in the Appalachians on a quest to learn from legendary pitmasters.

“What makes great BBQ? You hand rub each slab with spices, then slow smoke'm in a pit of smoldering hickory like the champion pitmasters in the Deep South. These ribs are so good right out of the smoker—try 'em without the sauce—just order your bones naked!” 

— Famous Dave —

  • Dave Cooking at Night

    Famous Dave’s second BBQ joint was modeled on the roadhouse shacks of the old South. People drove from all over the Twin Cities to fill the 50-seat dining room and 25-seat screened-in porch. Linden Hills was wildly successful and thus began the expansion of Famous Dave’s across America.

  • Famous Dave Calhoun

    In September 1996, Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues opened in Minneapolis. Modeled after a street in Chicago (complete with an elevated train track—plus sound and visual effects) the club has won awards for Best Music, Best Blues Vocalist, Best Restaurant Design, and Best Take-Out Menu.

  • Home of Famous Daves

    Famous Dave opened his first BBQ Shack in 1994 in Hayward, Wisconsin. It became wildly popular, serving up to 5,000 people a week in a town of only 1,800. Today, the Original Famous Dave’s is one of the most photographed restaurants in Wisconsin.

Over 700 Awards and Counting

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  • Did you Know?

    Oprah Winfrey once gave Famous Dave an Angel Network Award for his work with at-risk Native American youth. 

  • Did you Know?

    Famous Dave was an Olympic torchbearer for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

  • Did you Know?

    Famous Dave once drove overnight all the way to Chicago to personally return boxes of ribs to the supplier because they weren't up to the quality of his standards. 

  • Did you Know?

    Zig Ziglar, world-renowned motivational speaker and author, dedicated his “Success for Dummies” book to Famous Dave and featured Dave’s life story.

  • Did you Know?

    All proceeds from Famous Dave’s cookbook Rib-O’Licious go to help disadvantaged Native American youth.

  • Did you Know?

    Famous Dave earned a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard at the John F. Kennedy School of Government—without even having an undergraduate degree!

  • Did you Know?

    President Bush appointed Famous Dave as ninth Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior for Indian Affairs and he was confirmed by a full U.S. Senate vote!

  • Did you Know?

    Junior Achievement inducted Famous Dave into their Junior Achievement Hall of Fame for his work with youth.

  • Did you Know?

    Famous Dave was inducted into the National Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame along with Fred DeLuca of Subway, Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A, and Sara Blakely of SPANX.

  • Did you Know?

    Big Brothers Big Sisters presented Famous Dave with the Odyssey Award for his mentoring and service to youth.

  • Did you Know?

    Famous Dave has been bankrupted twice, but his unwavering faith, passion, and perseverance put him back on his feet.