Thanks to that Angel of Brisket named Aaron Franklin, this town is lousy with great BBQ. And given that BBQ is one of the Texan’s four major food groups (along with chicken fried steak, tacos, and tequila), that’s a damn good thing. Allandale hosts several BBQ joints, but the granddaddy of the ‘hood is Big O’s Pit BBQ at 4707 Burnet Road.
The first Pit Bar-B-Q opened in San Marcos in 1966 (and I’m 97% sure Fuschak’s Pit Bar-B-Q roots back to this original). They quickly opened up six additional locations in the next four years, including The Pit Bar-B-Q No. 7 on Burnet Road in 1970. Bill and Roma Duff bought The Pit on Burnet in 1977, and the family ran it for more than four decades with Roma still greeting regulars from the chopping block just a few years ago.
Enter Orlando Arriaga, who grew up in Allandale and remembers riding his bike over to The Pit for a quick bite. He opened his first Taco Shack in 1996 down the street on Medical Parkway, a taco empire that now includes eight locations in Austin and Frisco. Still living in Allandale, Arriaga heard through the beefline that the Duffs were looking to retire and worked out a deal in 2018 to take over The Pit.
Inspired by his coming transition to pit boss, Arriaga traveled the state tasting and talking BBQ (this may be when he transitioned from Little O to Big O…) and then experimented with his backyard smoker. The result was a steel pit named Dorothy placed out back to compliment the original brick pits for smoking locally-sourced, prime meats. Besides putting in a few covered picnic tables (Big O’s Corral) and adding “Big O’s” to the name in March 2019, Arriaga has left the place as it was, which has an old-skool, working-class authenticity.
So how’s the Q? It’s quite good! I was able to visit pre-pandemic and enjoy a brisket and sausage plate (plus two sides; $11.50) on the premises. The brisket was moist as all hell with a tasty, thick bark dark and glistening as midnight. The jalapeno cheese sausage was amazing with a good burn and a luxurious, heart-stopping tidal wave of cheesy richness (and very well could be the best sausage I’ve ever had). The staff and service were down-home friendly.
After the pandemic hit, I took advantage of Big O’s new walk-up window (“You don’t have to risk it to get your brisket!”) to walk away with half-pounds of brisket ($8.99, showing pre-pandemic prices), sausage ($7.49), and turkey ($8.49) as well as half a chicken ($7.59) and a side of mac & cheese. The chicken is practically pollo confit, falling-off-the-bone good with a tasty rub. For a healthy choice, there’s smoked turkey nested in a thin dark rub. As a side, I ordered the Hatch Chili [sic] Mac & Cheese (“Did you order a vegetable?” my out-of-town bride asked. “Yes,” I replied, because, you know, Hatch chile is a vegetable). Because I called ahead, I was rewarded with a slice of burnt end brisket candy, well worth the price of pre-planning.
Big O’s probably won’t knock the usuals from their roost at the top of the eaterati’s BBQ lists, but you know what? They don’t have to. For me, it’s good knowing that not only do I not have to stand in line for an hour for good BBQ, I also don’t have to drive across town either. Big O’s will amply fulfill your BBQ needs with great BBQ, smoked right here in the neighborhood by a neighbor.
I wrote this review for the Allandale Neighbor.
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]