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Head To Big Ern's For Real Deal BBQ Downtown

Where: 102 S. 7th Street [map], 89101
December 5, 2012 at 1:05 PM | by | ()

Real BBQ is smoked, not grilled. And, a Zappos alum is the only smokin' king downtown!

We like BBQ. We like Texas 'que, even if it’s a chain resto. We like people who talk about barbecue, and we really, really like Big Ern and his downtown BBQ joint.

The Big Ern of which we speak.

Big Ern is a Los Angeles native and honed his smoking skills for years while working at Zappos. He realized his true love is barbecue and decided to switch from selling shoes to smoking beef, pork and chicken. Big Ern’s is a basic BBQ stand, for the time being, lurking behind the soon-to-break-ground Shipping Container Park construction zone façade. Big Ern will open a permanent bricks and mortar location at the Container Park (complete with beer and wine!) next year.

We opted for the three-meat/two-side platter ($15): hot links, pork ribs and brisket with mac ‘n cheese and cole slaw. The meats came drizzled with Big Ern’s not-too sweet, or spicy, 14-ingredient BBQ sauce (we should’ve asked for the meats ‘naked,' preferring sauce on the side).

Big Ern imports his hot links from the North Las Vegas legendary meat-shack, John Mull’s, and prefers simple seasoning in his brisket, ribs, and pulled pork. Our favorite was the brisket, a tri-colored beef beauty. Big Ern smokes his brisket for 12 hours, using hickory and oak. The result is a dark, crispy bark, an ample rosy red smoke ring and tender, crumbly beef.

Behold, the smoker.

The St. Louis pork ribs are nearly as succulent; the visible smoke ring giving way to melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The side dishes are good. The vinegar-based cole slaw, tangy and crisp. Baked beans are tender and studded with pulled pork. Our only slight disappointment was the macaroni (rigatoni, actually) and cheese; it was not bad, just not as creamy and cheesy as a great mac 'n cheese should be.

The proof is in the pudding sauce. And, the rub. That didn't work at all.

Big Ern's offers a handful of outdoor picnic tables set atop ersatz grass, and lots of napkins, for your mid-day dining experience. Located in Fremont East on 7th just around the corner from Fremont, the BBQ joint is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and recently added Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Take a gander at the menu, and the pricing, below. Stop by on a Tuesday or a Wednesday this month for a $5 big box special.

Archived Comments:


Prices look pretty darn reasonable too!  Hope he's there in April when I'm in town.  

Closer than you think

It's half a block away from the Keno lounge in the El Cortez. Walk out the side door, cross the street, take about 30 steps and you're there. Walk another half block and you'll be at the Eat restaurant that was reviewed earlier.

Only Lunch

Damn... Only open for lunch (which is breakfast time for me).

Still, looks good enough that I might trade in my toast and eggs for some serious BBQ.


I ate here last March and it was very good. The dude looks like a walking heart attack but he can cook. Will be hitting him up in 20 day.