I absolutely love barbecue. I repeat, I. LOVE. BARBECUE! Chicken, pork, beef — it’s all amazing after a stint in a smoke-filled box, so I really was itching to try a new (to me) place in Knoxville called Big Catz BBQ.
The drive was perfect for an early October day, with hardly a cloud in the bright, blue sky. We hummed right along and found ourselves in the parking lot just a few minutes after 11 — perfect timing since we skipped breakfast to save room for our lunch feast.
In addition to your typical starters like Rings and Wings, Big Catz offers a full menu of salads (four), wraps and melts (five), burgers (five), sandwiches (11), and dinners (seven). A sucker for mashed potatoes, I was drawn to the Country Fried Steak in the “Comfort Food” section but quickly remembered why we were there — meat. Beautiful, smoked meat. We found exactly the option we wanted under “Dinners”: the Three Meat Combo.
The Combo is perfect to share, especially when you want to try a little of everything. The meal comes with four rib bones, five ounces of sliced brisket and a third pound of pulled pork. For our two sides, we chose the Yum-Yum Potatoes and Deb’s Famous Beans.
When lunch arrived, everything looked and smelled amazing. Plus, there was a surprise piece of cornbread on the plate — mmm, mmm, tasty. After divvying up our portions, I dove in. The ribs were smoky with a flavorful dry rub, and the meat fell off the bone. I tried a couple bites with the sweet barbecue sauce but preferred to let the rub shine alone. The brisket was moist and tender, and paired well with all the sauces, particularly the spicier one for added kick. The pulled pork also was delicious, with beautiful smoky flavor that was best complemented by the third, tangier sauce.
He reported that he thoroughly enjoyed the beans. (I’m not a fan of mixing varieties, but he said it made for a great blend of textures.) However, there was NO WAY I wasn’t having the potatoes, and “Yum Yum” is exactly the perfect description! This hashbrown-based treat is cheesy and creamy and warm all at once. Thank goodness there only was a small dish to share, as I really could make some poor choices regarding those potatoes.
The cornbread wasn’t as sweet as some places serve, which made it a better side dish than the more dessert-like counterparts. I realized too late that it probably would make an excellent bun for the brisket or pulled pork. Maybe next time…
Note: Big Catz BBQ is located at 221 E. Main Street in Knoxville, Ill., and opens daily at 11 a.m.