Bigmistas Barbecue & Sammich Shop finally has a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. It opened Saturday in Long Beach to a line out the door.
Here's a tip for your visit: Go for the now-famous barbecue, but make sure you don't miss the buns.
Bigmista himself, Neil Strawder, is rolling out a new treat for fans of his smokey handiwork: bao-style buns, some filled with brisket and others filled with pulled pork. There are also traditional buns. The secret, Strawder said, is that the buns are all finished off with a barbecue-butter glaze.
"I call these Qbuns," Strawder said Saturday. "They're like my babies," he joked.
You'll also find the favorites that helped create a cult following at Southern California farmers markets, including smoked brisket, pulled pork, pastrami, ribs, tips and turkey breasts. (If you want one of those turkey breasts for Thanksgiving, order it now.)
The emphasis is on the meat, so the menu is pretty straightforward. In addition to ordering meat to go, there are sandwiches and BBQ bowls -- as in a pile 'o meat served over the side of your choosing: barbecue beans, collard greens, mashed potatoes, pineapple coleslaw or potato salad. When you're in luck, you'll find something sweet: The pecan pie, sweet potato pie and red velvet cupcakes were selling quickly on Saturday.
The opening was much anticipated for Bigmista fans, who have been disappointed again and again as Neil and Phyllis Strawder tried to make the leap from the farmers market circuit to a storefront restaurant.
At one point, the couple were planning to open in downtown Los Angeles. (Our restaurant critic, Jonathan Gold, was among those wondering: "Can the downtown Bigmista's open quickly enough?") But that deal, and a few others, fell through.
Then the Long Beach storefront came open, and Neil Strawder said he believes it's the perfect match, as it's not far from the couple's home.
Here are a few more tips for your visit:
This is not fast food, people! The Strawders and their employees are hand-carving their meats, handcrafting sandwiches and hand-brushing the butter-barbecue glaze on those buns. If you are in a hurry, phone in your order ahead so it will be waiting for you.
And if you are going to order some meat to go, do yourself a favor and order a dozen or so some of the traditional buns and remember to get some of the homemade barbecue sauce on the side. That way, you'll have a mighty fine slider (or two) for dinner on a busy weeknight.
Bigmistas is located at 3444 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal, north of the 405 Freeway, off the Palo Verde Avenue exit. Hours are still being finalized, so also call ahead to make sure they're open: (562) 423-4244. Neil says they will be open "11:30 or so to 8-ish, or until we run out." For right now, days of operation are Tuesdays through Saturdays, closed Mondays and Sundays.
"We are so blessed with this place," Neil said. "So on Sundays, we need to go pray."
Oh, and don't forget some pie, or you will regret it.