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Monday, May 23, 2005 

Where's the beef?

Big Daddy's satisifies big appetites
It's usually not good to go out to dinner and have the entire meal fall apart. At Big Daddy's BarB-Q, this happens regularly, and the patrons don't seem to mind at all. On any given night, diners watch as the meat falls off their plates of ribs or melts in their mouths.
In its current location in the Wickersham Hall in downtown Fairbanks, Big Daddy's BarB-Q has set up a permanent version of their popular trailer, seen at fairs and festivals across the Interior. The dining area can easily seat about 18 parties, with another four booths by the bar. A main feature of the interior is the large bar, which features multiple flat-screen televisions.
When we made our way inside on a recent Monday evening, we chose a booth against the wall, underneath numerous framed barbecue awards. Melissa, our waitress, asked if we would be warm enough at that table, then brought us a six-pack of sauces. I wanted the Pig Out Platter, which offers Texas beef brisket, smoked chicken, St. Louis spareribs and Carolina pulled pork, plus two sides and Texas toast, all for $25.75. One of my dining companions, who has omnivorous tendencies, insisted this wouldn't be enough, so we added appetizers of babyback ribs and Texas toothpicks. A vegetarian friend ordered the all-you-can-eat salad bar. Hey, I warned him there weren't many vegetarian options at a barbecue restaurant.
Melissa dropped off our appetizers, and told us that the ribs were the best bones in the world. I might have to agree with her. The half-rack of ribs, $10, were sweet and spicy. The meat was so tender that it fell off the bone. Not to be outdone, the Texas toothpicks, $5.75, consisted of strips of onions and jalapenos, batter dipped, deep fried, and served with a sour cream ranch dip. The batter itself was spicy and, thankfully, not overpowering. One of my pet peeves is eating fried food and tasting nothing but batter. In this case, the batter was a delicate layer of crunchiness on the toothpicks. Melissa also brought us some Texas toast with our appetizers, big slices of Italian bread, grilled on one side and still fluffy on the other. The grilling gave the toast a savory, buttery flavor, without being hard and crunchy.
I was already feeling slightly full, but the main course had yet to arrive. True to its name, the Pig Out Platter holds quite a bit of food. Unsure of where to begin, I piled a mound of pulled pork on my plate. As it turns out, the pulled pork was a great foil for the different sauces, but even unadorned, it was heavenly. The meat had a rich, smoky flavor, and was not fatty or greasy. Big Daddy's signature hot sauce was tangy with an afterkick, but not very hot. The sweet sauce seemed to be about the same level of heat, but with a peppery, tomato flavor. My true favorite was the sweet and spicy mustard. It was hot and peppery, yet still sweet and tangy. I chose to slather this over the rest of my pulled pork.
Turning my attention to the spareribs, I was a little hesitant. I'm not a fan of greasy or fatty meat, but I found these to be delightful. The skin was crispy, and the meat was buttery and not too fatty. Again, it was so tender that it fell off the bone easily, and had a delicious teriyaki flavor. I was so happy with the spareribs, that I cut myself a big chunk of brisket. Unfortunately, its hard to escape the fat in brisket. "I got to admit, the fat tastes pretty good," my boyfriend said, but I couldn't agree. I found a compromise, though, in the edges of the brisket, where no fat seemed to lurk. The meat had a peppered flavor reminiscent of beef jerky. Again, the meat fell apart. Big Daddys takes their slow cooking seriously.
The smoked chicken, which I saved for last, turned out to be my least favorite portion of the meal. Though it looked delicious, I thought it was too dry. Instead, I chose to selfishly eat all of the fried cobbet we had ordered. Fried cobbet is half an ear of corn, which is grilled and then fried, and served in a small bowl of melted butter. To quiet their whining, I let my friends each try a bite, but that baby was all mine. I generously let them eat our other side, fried okra.
Throughout our meal, our vegetarian friend kept making trips to the salad bar. Although he said it seemed to be pretty run of the mill, his plate was always piled high with accoutrements such as pepperoncini, corn salsa and a spread that reminded us of a cheeseball. "I get the feeling that meat is their specialty," he said. He also brought back generous portions of cornbread and honey butter to supplement what Melissa had given us.
At this point, I had discreetly unbuttoned my pants under the table to give my expanding stomach room. Therefore, I had space left when Melissa showed off the dessert tray. Convincing my companions that surely we could fit in two bites each, I ordered a peanut butter tart, $3.50, to share. The tart was lovely to look at, served on a paper doily that became messy as we ate. The crust was average, but the filling was creamy and light. It was more like a peanut butter mousse than a rich filling. After all we'd eaten, that suited us just fine.