Big Ern’s BBQ
At a Glance
What is it?
A BBQ joint with a downhome flair.
Where is it?
At the Downtown Container Park in Downtown Las Vegas.
What kind of food is served?
BBQ, of course. Think ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and the like in a sweet sauce.
What is the atmosphere like?
It’s a very small restaurant so seating is a premium inside.
How is the service?
Very good – quick and easy.
What are the prices like?
Very affordable all the way across the board.
What else do I need to know?
The lines can be long at peak times.
What’s the bottom line?
Makes a good case that BBQ doesn’t have to come from The South to be good.
I freely admit that I am a BBQ snob. It takes a lot to impress me and I usually consider any BBQ produced north of the Mason Dixon line or west of Amarillo to be an insulting imitation of the cuisine. That is not to say that all BBQ produced in the American South is automatically good, but generally speaking, if you’re looking for the best you’re going to want to look toward the places where they say y’all to find it.
Big Ern’s BBQ in Downtown Las Vegas doesn’t change that assessment for me, but it definitely makes me want to consider expanding my geographical limits a bit.
The man behind the pit is Los Angeles native Big Ern Loya, a former Zappos.com employee who quit his job at the Vegas-based online retailer to pursue his passion: BBQ. He obviously studied the craft of making the stuff because this is serious ‘cue. We’re talking St. Louis style pork ribs, pulled pork or chicken, smoked beef brisket, hot links, and more all cooked slow over hickory and oak logs. The meat is tender and the sauce is sweet, just the way I like it (sorry, vinegar lovers, this one’s for the rest of us).
We sampled the pulled pork and the brisket and while it may not have been the best BBQ I have ever eaten it is awfully darned good and certainly the best in Las Vegas by a mile. Add a tiny bit more smoke to the meat and I’d put this up against the finest the south has to offer.
You can get the meat by the pound, in sandwich form, or as a combo platter with your choice of cuts and sides like mac and cheese, pork and beans, or potato salad.
Prices are downright cheap. Sandwiches are $8; plates are $10; and you can get meat by the pound for around $15-$17.
The restaurant is located in the Downtown Container Park, a shopping and entertainment facility just a couple of blocks from the Fremont Street Experience and across the street from El Cortez. The place was built out of recycled shipping containers and pre-fabricated metal cubes, meaning that the restaurant itself isn’t that big. There are only seats for about a dozen people inside but there are plenty of places to sit outside around the complex including tables in the shade.
The South still wins the BBQ wars but with places like Big Ern’s on the case the battle just got a lot more interesting.