Mount Vernon has a little-known gem of a restaurant, tucked just down the hill from Main Street: Big’s BBQ (124 2nd Ave NW). From the street, this stately manor would pass for a Cornell professor’s home. But inside waits a tidy little restaurant and brewery serving big flavor.
Big’s delivers a surprising variety of delicious smoked meats, all smoked on-site over locally harvested cherry wood. Traditional favorites like pulled pork and smoked chicken, sausages and ribs are side by side with spectacular burnt ends and clever additions such as BBQ Tacos or the Iowa BBQ Pie (Fritos, pulled pork, baked beans and cheese — the barbecue version of the taco salad).
Brisket fanatics should go on a Saturday or Sunday, when the amazing brisket special is available: tender and flavorful with a bit of zip, this weekend special is truly incredible. And there are other great treats in store any day of the week.
Without doubt another perk of Big’s is the impressive beer menu. Regardless of your preferences, Big’s has you covered with a wide selection, brewed in house—complex microbrews to suit any taste.
Having quite happily eaten half the menu, there are three things I’d like to see Big’s add or adjust. For one, no barbecue joint can do with substandard baked beans. Big’s exceeds expectation in so many other ways, but the beans do fall short. Choose the nice mustardy potato salad or the remarkable cole slaw instead.
Also, cornbread is a staple in excellent barbecue joints—Big’s meets the requirements otherwise, but a good cornbread would elevate their greatness. Last, desserts: while the menu provides delicious meal options, great local beer and bottled soft drinks, something sweet would be a fantastic complement. A waitress mentioned that peach cobbler might be in the works — an excellent idea!
Big’s BBQ may be a bit of a drive for some readers, but it’s well worth it. This restaurant’s amazing flavor and truly gifted local beer menu is competing rather well in the eastern Iowa barbecue scene. Definitely check it out.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 244.