When most people think of Las Vegas, a tender 12-hour smoked brisket isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Traditional barbecue is a rare taste in a city built more on elaborate entertainment than simple Southern comfort and hospitality. But since early 2016, Big B’s Texas BBQ has been adding a new twist of smoky flavor to the melting pot of Las Vegas—one that football fanatics have been tasting this season, with all-you-can-eat Sundays on game days.
Creators Natalia Badzjo and her San Antonio–born husband, Brian Buechner, opened their communal-style restaurant because, after more than a decade in Las Vegas, Buechner noticed a lack of true Texas-style BBQ, and he wanted to bring a little bit of home into the city where he was planting roots. The two met in Las Vegas 14 years ago while Badzjo was a waitress at Tabu nightclub and Buechner was a bartender at Studio 54. They’ve both been working in Vegas nightlife ever since.
After years of working with nightclubs including 1 OAK, Light and Drai’s, Buechner decided to bring his business background into the culinary world to offer something a little different but close to his heart. Brian drives home to Texas to haul back cords of the mesquite and oak woods that are used to smoke the meat, and he says that’s what makes all the difference.
“We tried using our local Nevada mesquite—but it is totally different,” Buechner says. “It is a desert hybrid, has a lot of bark and oil in the wood which makes it very pungent. When it is used for smoking meats, the taste is too overpowering and almost bitter. That’s why real Texas wood is essential to what we do.”
Their imported wood definitely fuels their family-style menu. Though when it comes to the meats, patrons shouldn’t worry much about overeating. As Badzjo explains, their lean cuts of meat and Texan-style smoking are much healthier than what most would imagine.
“Texas-style BBQ in a way is considered purist barbecue,” Badzjo says. “No injections, no MSG, no phosphates in the meat. It’s just dry rub and smoke.”
While there are many other BBQ joints in the Las Vegas area, in Brian’s opinion, Texas-style is the best style—specifically in Austin. While he praised restaurants like Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ and Twin Creeks, Brian claims the best BBQ comes from the street vendors. “There are endless amounts of guys on the side of the road [in Austin] who I think are the best,” he says. “They’re doing it daily until the meat’s gone, and they do it to please themselves. They enjoy it. Those are the best BBQ places to me.”
As for Big B’s, they’re smoking 24/7.
“We start our nighttime smoke at about 7 or 8 p.m., when we trim the briskets and we rub the rub on them,” he says. “We then put them in the smoker overnight. … In the morning, we have a guy come in at 5 o’clock to put the smaller meats on, like the chicken, tri-tip, turkey. … Any meat left from the night before will go into our beans and will go into the smoker for two or three hours, and at that time, he’s also putting the briskets on for the nighttime portion of dinner. We keep a constant part of meat coming off the smoker so it’s always fresh and ready.”
During football season, every Sunday NFL game day, Big B’s hosts a tailgate complete with a variety of Texas beers and specials, and they will have a Super Bowl party that will include all-you-can-eat.
11 a.m.–9 a.m. daily, 3019 St. Rose Pkwy. Trail, Suite 130, Henderson, bigbztexasbbq.com