Competition for Richmond’s barbecue fans keeps getting hotter.
Rob Weaver and Brian Daigneault are opening Big’s BBQ near the intersection of Centralia and Iron Bridge roads, at the Chesterfield Meadows shopping center.
Weaver said the name comes from nicknames the two earned while working at another local barbecue joint.
“I’m 6-foot-7-inches, 270 pounds, so I’m a big guy,” Weaver said. “Everybody at the other place called me ‘Big Rob.’ Well, one of the guys in the kitchen was a wrestling fan, and they thought Brian looked like Big Show. Everyone there called us Big Rob and Big Show, so when it came time to name the place, Big’s BBQ just seemed to make sense.”
The restaurant — at 6515 Centralia Road — was previously Soprano’s Italian Bistro, which shut down and left its equipment behind, Weaver said.
“That was one of the things that attracted us to this location. When you go into a place and do a complete overhaul, there are a lot of hidden costs that really add up,” Weaver said. “There is zoning, environmental things, handicapped access, plumbing — those are the things you have to do to legally open a restaurant. With this location, aside from needing a thorough cleaning and all the cheesy decor, all that was already done.”
Weaver said he and Daigneault hope to attract customers from the nearby Chesterfield government and police offices during the lunch hour and bring them back after work for bourbon and barbecue.
Big’s is working with Jim Beam on the cocktail menu, which will include bourbon root beer floats and milkshakes, Weaver said. Weaver pulled off that hookup from his years in the local restaurant scene.
“That’s really the other side of that company,” Weaver said. “They’ll sponsor the Super Bowl, but on the other side they want to reach into the community. And this area really is their target audience.”
As for the barbecue, Weaver said the restaurant won’t focus too much on regional flavors but will take its sauces from a variety of influences. The focus, he said, will be on the meats themselves.
“Barbecue is about smoked meats, and that’s really it,” he said. “The sauce is a separate component all together. You wouldn’t go to a steak restaurant and order ‘the A1.’ You order the steak. Same applies to barbecue. It’s about the meat. The sauce is secondary.”
Weaver said that all of Big’s meats would be prepared same-day, which means they might run out of food from time to time.
“I’d rather run out of food than feed someone something that has been sitting in the fridge for two days,” he said.
Patrons will come to the counter to order and take the food back to their tables, Five Guys-style. The look will be low-key for the most part, with a chalkboard menu. But Weaver had one big sticking point regarding the decor.
“I don’t want a pig,” he said. “I don’t want to see a pig anywhere in this restaurant. If I let Brian decorate, there would probably be pigs all over. It will look a little bit like a smoke shack in here, but it will be more hip, more of a downtown atmosphere. Of course we can’t reinvent the wheel here — a barbecue joint is a barbecue joint, after all. But we don’t want to be a cliche.”
Peter Bunin of S.L. Nusbaum brokered the deal to bring Big’s to Chesterfield Meadows. Bunin said that while the shopping center has always done well, the storefront now occupied by Big’s has seen its share of turnover.
“We’ve tried everything from Five Guys to Sopranos there trying to find the right niche,” Bunin said. “Nothing has ever seemed to quite click but its sandwiched between two highly successful food tenants: Subway and El Patron. From what I’ve seen the formula for success out there is to serve good food at good prices.
“I think barbecue is the perfect niche for that location and Big’s has got it right, from their price points to their service. Not to sound cliched but I expect big things from Big’s.”