Big Mikes BBQ: Pittsboro’s new hot spot for BBQ enthusiasts

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – Big Mikes BBQ in Pittsboro, recently had a soft opening on Saturday, January 20. The establishment saw a tremendous turnout, with almost all the food being sold out by 4 to 5 pm, leaving only a small amount of brisket remaining. I had a chance to sit down and have a conversation with owner, Mike Markham. He shared his reasons for choosing Pittsboro and the inspiration behind his venture.

Mike and I have a conversation about his new Big Mikes BBQ coming to downtown Pittsboro

A Taste of Home in Pittsboro

Mike Markham, the culinary maestro behind Big Mike’s BBQ, chose Pittsboro as the home for his latest venture. Reflecting on the town’s growth and small-town charm, Markham drew parallels to his own upbringing in Concord, creating a sense of nostalgia and community. The decision to open in Pittsboro came not only from the appeal of an established town but also from a desire to grow alongside it.

(photo by Gene Galin)

Bringing Barbecue to the Heart of Pittsboro

One might argue that there’s no shortage of barbecue joints, but Big Mike sees an opportunity in Pittsboro’s culinary landscape. Acknowledging the presence of another barbecue spot up the road on 15-501, he embraces friendly competition, even suggesting a potential cook-off with neighboring establishments. We touched on the soft opening’s success, with a brisket quickly disappearing and plans for an expanded menu that caters to diverse tastes.

From Food Truck to Restaurant: A Culinary Journey

Markham shared insights into his culinary journey, spanning 12 years, from the inception of a food truck to the opening of Big Mikes BBQ in Pittsboro. Mike’s culinary journey traces back to his food truck days, where the love for barbecue and the joy of sharing it with others became the driving force. The decision to transition from a food truck to a restaurant was influenced by a desire to be a family man and create a space where people could enjoy not just the food but also the experience of coming together. Mike remarked: “I want to be a family man, spend time with my kids, and do something that I really love doing.”

Mike discussed some of his childhood memories associated with barbecue and his grandfather, who inspired him. There’s a focus on keeping the menu simple yet high quality. Mike mentioned the significance of tasting and perfecting the restaurant dishes.

Culinary Highlights and Challenges

Mike touched upon the challenges faced during the soft opening, with overwhelming demand leading to sold-out menus. Markham emphasizes the importance of sourcing local ingredients and maintaining a fresh approach to the menu. Special attention is given to signature dishes like burnt ends and brisket, with Markham sharing his secrets to achieving culinary perfection. The incorporation of smoked potato salad and unique offerings like secret menu items adds an element of surprise to the dining experience.

Pairing Wine with Barbecue: A Culinary Adventure

In a somewhat surprising twist, we delved into the art of pairing wine with barbecue. Markham breaks away from traditional norms by exploring wine pairings with barbecue. Mike shared his insights into the complex flavors of smoked meats and recommended wines that complement them.

There is a complexity of flavors when smoked meats are paired with different wines, making it a delightful experience for connoisseurs. The pairing of specific smoked meats with suitable wines can result in a harmonious combination that food enthusiasts will appreciate.

The discussion also included the use of tallow from brisket in a unique smoked potato salad, showcasing the dedication to freshness and quality ingredients. Mike also shared his personal experience and preference for smoking the tongue of the pig, describing its unique flavor and texture when prepared correctly.

The Pit Master’s Secrets: Burnt Ends and Brisket

The “secrets” behind great burnt ends and brisket are unveiled as Mike emphasizes the importance of the rub. Mike noted that “for me, it comes down to the rub. You cannot beat the rub.” Exploring the nuances of barbecue preferences, the restaurant will offer high-quality wings and a smoked potato salad that sets Big Mike’s BBQ apart.

Community, Collaboration, and Specials

Big Mike’s BBQ aims to become an integral part of the Pittsboro community, collaborating with local breweries and planning special events. Mike revealed the possibility of collaborating beers with Havoc Brewery, emphasizing the importance of supporting local businesses.

Adapting and Innovating: The Future of Big Mike’s BBQ

As we came to the end of our discussion, Mike emphasized the restaurant’s commitment to adapting and innovating its menu based on customer feedback. The mention of secret menu items, like Nick’s deviled eggs, adds an element of intrigue, inviting patrons to explore unique offerings that may not always be on the regular menu.

There’s a good chance that Mike Markham’s commitment to tasting and refining dishes, along with his hands-on approach to the culinary process, ensures a consistently high-quality dining experience for patrons of Big Mikes BBQ in Pittsboro.

Current plans are that Big Mikes BBQ in Pittsboro will be open for business on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Watch and/or listen to my conversation with Big Mikes BBQ owner, Mike Markham on YouTube.

00:12 Big Mike’s BBQ opens in Pittsboro with a soft opening

  • Owner chose Pittsboro for its growth potential and small town feel
  • Business aims to establish with the community and grow with the town

02:05 Big Mike’s BBQ will have a different style with limited availability for certain BBQ items and a stable menu for sandwiches and fresh food.

  • They will have a variety of meat options available all day, such as ribs, half chicken, and special menu items like Poor Man’s burn ends.
  • The restaurant will also offer a great selection of drinks including a wine list, craft beer, and a full liquor license upon opening on Thursday.

05:09 Owner’s passion for barbecue and family traditions

  • Growing up around barbecue, wanting to continue the tradition for his kids
  • Cooking whole Hogs at NC State and his dedication to the team

06:45 Big Mike’s BBQ aims for a family-friendly atmosphere with limited focus on TVs.

  • The owner incorporates his granddad’s tasting method into the recipes for a constant quality check.
  • The owner emphasizes the importance of tasting food during preparation to ensure the best quality.

09:50 Pairing wine with smoked meats

  • Different types of smoked meats pair well with different wine flavors
  • The restaurant will offer unique smoked meat options and pairings with wine

11:22 They use multiple grills and smokers with wood for cooking.

  • They have seven different trailer cookers and smokers that work in the kitchen.
  • They prefer using wood, lump charcoal, or actual sticks for old-school cooking.

14:32 Secret to making great burnt ends and brisket

  • Using a complex rub for the meat and cooking at the right temperature for 16-20 hours.
  • Highlighted items to try include the brisket, burnt ends, and the wings with smoked potato salad.

16:10 Big Mike’s BBQ fries potatoes in smoked brisket fat for a unique potato salad.

  • Potato salad is mixed with sour cream, mayo, and Duke’s mayo, making it a warm and cheesy delight.
  • The restaurant has received a lot of attention and local talent for hiring.

19:02 Big Mike’s BBQ aims for a fun, outdoor atmosphere with locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients.

  • The restaurant plans to have TVs outdoors for watching games and a possibility of tailgating.
  • They hope to offer a variety of food options, from quick orders to more crafted, deep menu items.

20:20 Big Mike’s BBQ owner enjoys connecting with customers.

  • The owner values seeing customers enjoy the food and have a good time at the restaurant.
  • He aims to spend more time with customers but faces challenges as a business owner.

22:58 Big Mike’s BBQ is considering removing the redneck nachos from the restaurant menu.

  • The redneck nachos were a popular dish on the food truck, but it’s not working well in the restaurant environment.
  • They plan to keep the redneck nachos on the food truck and may make it available upon request.

24:22 The owner discusses the need for menu evolution and having a professional kitchen staff.

  • Emphasizes the importance of a skilled and proud kitchen staff for evolving the menu.
  • Mentions introducing new dishes like the devil egg, and plans for the future with other restaurants.

27:08 Big Mike’s BBQ expands distributor business, facing challenges

  • Local Brewery struggling with distributor business
  • Discussion about the availability of IPA and future plans

28:49 Adapting the menu to please customers and owner

  • Flexibility in menu changes to satisfy customers and owner
  • Big Mike expresses gratitude and announces upcoming opening