Smoke Signal: Big D Barbecue pours it on thick
Barbecue aficionados know the sensation all too well. You pull up to a restaurant and the smoky smell of oak or hickory hits you as soon as you open the door of your car. You know you’ve arrived and it’s time to indulge. That’s the feeling experienced at Mansfield’s Big D Barbecue.
Open for just less than two years now, the joint has been growing quite a reputation for fresh, tender meats and a unique “organic sauce.” We stopped by late last fall to visit with owner Jordy Jordan about his hobby-turned-business and his plans for the future.
Jordan grew up in a family where smoking their own barbecue was commonplace. “Barbecue has always been in my blood,” he says. He worked in several restaurants growing up in East Texas and as an adult continued the family tradition of barbecuing in his backyard.
He spent a decade in the insurance sales business before starting Big D Barbecue in 2013. But his real Eureka moment came during a winter storm in 2010. “Me and a friend had cabin fever and were looking for something to do,” he says. “So we got a couple of 30-packs of beer and in about 15 hours we had created our own barbecue sauce.”
As a result, he was now selling his own sauce and the slow-smoked barbecue he had been carefully crafting in his backyard. You can see where this was all headed. Jordan began looking for a retail spot to open a restaurant. It wasn’t long until he found what he was looking for. He remembers calling his wife and saying, “I just signed a lease for a restaurant and I’m quitting my job.” The name Big D was in honor of Jordy’s grandfather (His nickname was Big Daddy but they shortened it to Big D for the restaurant).
You’re drawn inside Big D Barbecue by the tantalizing aroma in the air. Inside, the rustic look and feel of a country barbecue joint has been perfectly executed. You order from an open counter covered in planks of old wood. A chalkboard above the counter describes the menu – it’s actually stenciled in chalk. Back behind the counter, Jordan, his father-in-law Gary, and their good friend “Tuna,” are eager to greet customers with knives and carve up whatever is requested. There’s chicken, brisket, turkey, sausage, pulled pork and ribs. Everything is smoked daily in the indoor pit right behind the counter. “We smoke all night for lunch the next day and then smoke again the day of for that evening,” he says.
The old-school barbecue style continues here as you’re served your meal in a cardboard tray with plastic forks and knives. You’ll find your napkin on the paper towel roll at each table. The stucco walls are adorned with all kinds of country-style décor and, of course, large Texas and U.S. flags are proudly displayed. Robert Earl Keen and other artists like him emanate from the house PA. There’s a tiny stage in one corner that would be the perfect place to witness Robert Earl Keen perform. Tables and chairs are lined up across the concrete slab floor beckoning families and large groups of friends to sit back and enjoy.
Big D Barbecue has been drawing lots of customers – especially on weekends. But Jordan says catering makes up about 25 percent of their business and that many customers come in and buy a pound or two of the various meats to take with them.
The biggest key to Big D Barbecue's success is the people, says Jordan. “I have been very fortunate to have Gary, our general manager, and Tuna, our assistant pit master, carry the love for our customers and our food, along with our other employees,” he says. “These guys work on perfecting our business and success every day and for that I am very thankful.”
Customer service is high on the priority list here, as is active community involvement. It’s just part of how Jordan does business.
Down To The Bone
It was a pleasure visiting with Jordan, but it was time to get started and see if the smoked goods were as tasty as they smelled. This visit included some brisket, turkey, pork ribs, green beans and macaroni and cheese with sausage. It was hard to know where to start.
The meats here are nicely done. The brisket was tender and had been cooked just long enough to have a smoky texture that was not too strong. There’s a nice light spiciness to the meats here that comes off as flavorful and with a slight kick.
The ribs and turkey were tender with a perfect blend of smokiness and flavor. Of course you can add either of Big D’s sauces – “Spicey” or “Big D Organic” – to any of the meats but properly smoked barbecue should hold up well on its own. This did. “Our sauces and rubs are made with peppers from around the world,” says Jordan.
For sides, we had the macaroni and cheese with sausage and a helping of green beans. Nothing to complain about with these choices. They were fresh and made a perfect complement to the main attraction. There’s also the usual standards like potato salad, coleslaw and beans.
Jordan is quick to point out that Big D Barbecue is not the cheapest barbecue in town but says, “You get high quality meats, smoked just right and generous portions.” Who could ask for more?
Big D Barbecue is located at 226 N. Walnut Creek in Mansfield. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00a.m. until 9:00 p.m. It’s currently BYOB and there’s live music on Saturday nights. Call 469-251-2443 or visit bigdbarbecue.com for more information.
Q&A with Big D Barbecue’s owner Jordy
Jordy Jordan has been smoking barbecue for most of his life. The 33-year-old East Texas native, who now lives in Midlothian, launched his first restaurant, Big D Barbecue in Mansfield back in 2013. He relies on his proprietary “organic sauce” and carefully selected and smoked meats to entice customers back again and again. We had a chance to visit with the married father of two late last fall. It’s obvious he loves what he’s doing and really knows what he’s doing. Here’s more of our conversation with him.
Q: What makes your food/menu unique?
A: Love. We make everything in house from scratch. (with the exception of our deserts, which are both made by local people). All of our sauces and rubs are 100 percent organic and gluten free. We take the traditional barbecue approach selling by the pound, but also give customers the option for sandwiches and plates.
Q: Any new menu items on the way?
A: We are working on some salads and a beef rib.
Q: What is the most popular or most requested dish you make?
A: Brisket, ribs and skillet taters. Turkey and green beans are catching up.
Q: How do you want customers to remember their experience?
A: We want them to feel like they are at home. We want them to come back not only for great barbecue, but also the feeling of being part of the Big D Family.
Q: What is your favorite type of food to eat?
A: Barbecue and soul food. I grew up in a very large East Texas family, so I really enjoy home cooked meals like chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, purple hull peas, cornbread and tea.
Q: If you go out to eat, where do you go?
A: My wife and I try to go to individually-owned and operated restaurants.
Q: What are your other hobbies?
A: My other passion is music.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or advice you’ve received or given?
A: “Whether the glass if half full or half empty make sure you are the one doing the pouring.” –Mark Cuban, and “Do something you love and you will never work a day in your life.”—My grandmother.
Q: What’s the last book you read?
A: Not a big book reader. I read more articles and publications pertaining to our craft.
Q: If you had to choose another profession what would it be?
A: I would probably just go back into the commercial insurance business, but I don’t see myself choosing any other profession any time soon.
by Kerry Pipes
Web Extra: More info and nearby spots
Big D Barbecue ranks 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp. Here are a few of the top reviews:
"Brisket at the restaurant or in their packaged bags is very good. It's hard to make time during the week to cook dinner. So, I take their packaged brisket and make awesome tacos with it. It's a hit with the kids."The turkey and chicken are my new favorite things on the menu. Again, eating straight out the smoker or taking it home, it's good. I've taken left-overs of chicken and made chicken soup with it. It reduce my cook time and added tons of flavor to my recipe.
"All in all, I do enjoy going to this family filled environment of good food and exceptional customer service. It's hard to find both in one place." - Stacie, Waxahachie
"Hands down, this is the best bbq I have ever had. I brought this home and my wife and I's eyes were rolled back every bite. Not only do they have he quality smoked meat flavor, but they have the bbq sauce to go with it. I have only tried their regular house bbq sauce which is perfectly spicey for my taste, but theu also have a spicey sauce.
"First I tried the beef brisket which was amazing and I thought , "this is the best bbq ever." Then I tried the country ribs and I thought, "no, this is the best bbq ever". It was amazing. The sides were uniquely flavored but nothing to wright home about.
"The owner asked me if I wanted a lean cut or fatty. I said, "I don't know, maybe in between". So, he cut the meat in a way that I would get a both. They were very nice." - Damon, Arlington
"While visiting Texas from WA state, Big D BBQ is something I will miss. I loved everything we tried and everybody was so friendly. Don't miss the ribs, the brisket and the smoked country style ribs. I think I loved them all equally. The most tender BBQ I've every had, fall of the bone. And don't forget the sauce and sides." - Diane, Auburn, Wash.
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