Big Daddy’s pulled pork is everything BBQ should be

A Texan reviews four barbecue vendors at this year’s festival.

Texas is home to many things: big hair, armadillos, the two-step, J.J. Watt, Beyoncé and, most importantly, barbecue. As a Houston of nine years, trust me when I tell you I know (and love) good Texas barbecue. It’s truly food for the soul and for the passionate eaters out there. You eat barbecue to feel something and walk away from your empty plate fulfilled, redeemed and five pounds heavier.

We know how to barbecue down in the Lone Star State, and we barbecue every chance we get. So naturally, when I found out about Roots N Blues N BBQ, I had to go — not for the music, but for the barbecue solely. I went in with moderate expectations and was pleasantly surprised with two barbecue vendors out of the four I visited. I sampled pulled pork from Big Daddy’s BBQ, Sugarfire Smokehouse, Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ, and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and tried every sauce offered.

Big Daddy’s BBQ

My first plate was from Big Daddy’s BBQ, and it surely started my day of taste testing on a high note. The pork was hot—as in temperature—and lathered in a house-made sweet barbecue sauce. It offered a hint of spice and a slightly tangy aftertaste. The dish was delicious and original, yet overpowering (in a good way). I tasted much more of the sauce than of the meat’s seasoning, but the pork I did taste was beautifully smoked and tender. As for texture, it was perfectly shredded. My mouth waters as I sit here writing this review.

Sugarfire Smokehouse

After Big Daddy’s, I went several vendors down to Sugarfire Smokehouse. I was served a full pulled pork sandwich for free, which was greatly appreciated but didn't bring bias into my ranking of barbecue joints. To keep things fair, I tried the pulled pork sans carbs and with not one, not two, but all seven of Sugarfire's house-made sauces. STL Sweet BBQ was everything the title implied: sweet and sugary. It was thick in consistency, and contrasted well with the seasoning of the meat.

The White BBQ sauce was not my favorite. It so creamy that it seemed more like a weird tartar sauce than a barbecue sauce. #47 sauce was a basic mild barbecue sauce. Not spicy, too sweet, or memorable. I found it mediocre at best.

Carolina Mustard was appropriately advertised, as it is your typical Carolina barbecue sauce: basically a tangy, dirty mustard that is a brownish-yellow color. I am certainly not a devoted East Coast barbecue fan, so this disdain didn't come as a surprise to me. It's just a personal reservation for which the vendor is not responsible.

Texas Hot Sauce was quite disappointing, because I know, understand and crave the unparalleled heat of Texas cooking, and this sauce captured absolutely none of that flare. It wasn’t even spicy. Not at all. It lacked the merciless and ungodly Texas “burn,” and all-around essence that the Lone Star State does so well. I was lightly outraged.

However, my dissatisfaction switched to something of awe and amazement in an instant as I tasted the last and best sauce (in my humble opinion), which is the coffee sauce. Yes, you read that correctly; it's a coffee barbecue sauce. I was hesitant — actually I wasn’t at all — so I slathered some on the pork, and dove in head-first. And man, was it good. The sauce had fine coffee ground remnants in it but not in a gross way. The initial taste was that of coffee, but only for a second. Then the flavor transitioned into one of a sweet barbecue sauce. It was thick and smoky and delightfully unconventional.

This sauce is everything a barbecue sauce should be, with rich, distinctive flavors that are fleeting and an aftertaste that leaves you craving more. I adore this sauce, and appreciate the originality of it. The pork was hot in temperature, but the “pulling” of the pork was different than my preference. The pieces of meat were in chunks or strips rather than fine long filaments, but aside from the texture, the flavor and seasoning were excellent. The coffee sauce stole the show, and I was blown away.

Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ

My next barbecue sample was from Smokin Chick’s BBQ. The pulled pork was finely shredded the way I like it and rubbed in Pig In A Polka seasoning prior to being smoked. It was flavorful even before a sauce touched it. A server told me that the sauces weren’t house-made but were "house mixed." Basically, Smokin’ Chick’s takes pre-made sauces and mixes them to create the two sauces they serve: wing-ding and hot.

The classic sauce was a basic sweet barbecue. Not much to dissect there. It was good, but lacked originality. That sauce has been tasted time and time before and separates the good barbecue from the great barbecue. The hickory sauce was tangier and spicier. I enjoyed that sauce much more than the first one but still wasn’t mind blown. The pork was fine, but “fine” is inadequate when describing soul food. All in all, Smokin’ Chick’s doesn’t leave any lasting impression on the carnivore at its mercy.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Lastly, I made my way to Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Unlike the other three, it is a nation-spanning franchise with roots in Dallas, Texas. I’ve had Dickey’s barbecue at home a time or two but have always put a different sauce on it (Sweet Baby Ray's original).

Dickey’s serves three house-made sauces: an original, a sweet and a spicy. The original is delicious; the other two are average. One is really sweet and the other is kind of spicy but not really. The pork was smoked to perfection and hot to the touch, so pair that with the original sauce and you've got a match made in heaven.

In conclusion, Big Daddy’s BBQ was my favorite of the four vendors. It was near-perfect barbecue, (because I believe there is always room for improvement), with exceptional heat, original flavors and high-quality meat. Best sauce has to go to Sugarfire Smoke House’s coffee barbecue sauce. It's a sensory rollercoaster of unique flavors that will overstimulate you in the best possible way. Smokin’ Chick’s and Dickey’s are honorable mentions that just couldn't stack up to the competition this time around.

All barbecue joints receive high marks for their southern hospitality. I had one hell of a time and meal, I and enjoyed a taste of Houston in Columbia. It goes to show that you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.

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