I’d already stopped in at Bigmista’s and was sitting outside eating the most scrumptous barbecued brisket sandwich (or sammich, as ‘Bigmista’ calls them) when I felt a pat on my shoulder, followed by Neil “Bigmista’ Strawder’s saying, “I knew you’d show up!”. Well, how could I help it? After years of eating Bigmista’s delicious barbecue on the run at competitions and farmer’s markets, I could finally enjoy some great ‘cue at a table while relaxing. For everyone else in the LB/OC area too, ‘BigMista’s Barbecue & Sammich Shop’ is already proving to not only be a neighborhood success but also a magnet for barbecue lovers from all over.
“It’s just been a blessing since we’ve been here”, Neil said to me. “it’s really a great neighborhood. People have been really receptive to us. They’ve been coming in, everyone’s been saying that they are so happy to have some real good barbecue in Long Beach”. Not even counting myself, who drove up from Mission Viejo to have some of Bigmista’s barbecue, Neil said that “Someone drove up from San Diego for the Grand Opening, someone stopped by just off the plane from Iowa, driving all just way from Burbank airport to catch the end of the Grand Opening”. Folks just keep coming in and we’re happy about it!”, he said. I’d even heard that the famous Kiki Maraschino had her sights set on a roadtrip for some of Bigmista’s meats.
The menu at Bigmista’s is pretty basic. There are choices of pulled pork, turkey and pastrami sandwiches. I opted for brisket, which was piled so high on the bun that is baked on the premises that it needed a fork to start things off. Bigmista’s has opted to do the brisket Texas style, smoked for hours and then chopped into pieces, with lots of delicious, crusty bark on it. A choice of BigMista’s own BBQ sauce, either spicy or mild, completes the sandwich.
Another option of ordering is their bowls. Neil came up with this idea, saying, “The bowls are basically your choice of meat over your choice of sides. For instance, you can get brisket over potato salad, pulled pork over cole slaw with BBQ sauce on top. It’s easy to eat; you can walk with it. You get a meat and a side, all in one bowl and ready to go!”. He added, “It’s good. You get the right combination, whatever you like. For example, the pulled pork over the cole slaw, we call that the perfect pulled pork. Or a ‘naked sammich’, the pulled pork’s nude! We have a lot of fun with it but folks love it”
The word had already gotten around that Bigmista came up with something special. “THE BUNS!!!”, Neil laughed as he said, “the fact that we opened up here in a bakery gave us a big advantage. We kept the baker on, baking all the bread for our sammiches. I decided I wanted to try some things and a friend of mine from Texas turned me on to kolaches”. Kolaches are very popular in Northwest Texas, brought by the Czechs who settled around New Braunfels and vaguely looking like a pasty or turnover. “It’s a real soft bread, some are stuffed with fruit, some with meat, some with sauce in them. I said that I wanted to try something different”.
“We found a recipe for the kolaches, tried it with brisket and pork and the bread was too hard, it was a crustry bread. We knew we needed it softe and sweeter. We tried it several times, got it just about right, but knew we needed a little more ‘something’. We mixed some of our barbecue sauce with melted butter, glazed the top of them and they are amazing now. We call them our Q-Buns”. Some people complare them to the Chinese Cha Siu Bao”, said Neil.
“A lot of the moms from the dance studios in the center pick up the buns for the kids, they are very popular”. We’re primarily a take-out place. We encourage people to call ahead. A day ahead is even better! We need to know how much to cook. We’ve been steadily increasing how much we cook each day and keep running out, so it’s important. We keep selling more and more and people keep buying it!”, Neil added. “We’ll just keep cooking more until we run out at the end of the day and not at 5:30!”.
While I ate my bun, Neil finished by saying, “Everyone needs to get over here to East Long Beach and get some BigMista’s barbecue. We’ve got the Q Buns, brisket, pastrami, turkey. It’s just great barbecue! Come on over and talk, have some fun and enjoy yourself!”
BigMista’s also sells meat by the pound, including spare ribs, with rib tips and smoked bologna coming soon. They also have meat combos and a selection of sides. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30am to 8:30pm. BigMista’s Barbecue and Sammich shop is closed Sunday and Monday.
Bigmista’s Barbecue and Sammich Shop
3444 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal
Long Beach, CA 90815