Make us your home page
Instagram

East Tampa's own Big John's Alabama Barbecue reopens

Traffic along 40th Street in east Tampa passes Big John’s Barbecue’s new restaurant Monday afternoon. The popular restaurant reopened Saturday after being rebuilt a few yards from its former location because of a widening project along 40th Street.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Traffic along 40th Street in east Tampa passes Big John’s Barbecue’s new restaurant Monday afternoon. The popular restaurant reopened Saturday after being rebuilt a few yards from its former location because of a widening project along 40th Street.

The hundreds of fans who gathered for the grand reopening of Big John's Alabama Barbecue had waited nearly a year for ribs, some chopped pork or just a taste of that famous sauce, so they didn't mind waiting a little bit longer.

Even in the rain.

While much of Tampa partied Saturday at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, at least 200 folks huddled together at the brand new building that was 10 months — and, really, 42 years — in the making.

The original Big John's closed in late March after the city annexed the family-owned property as part of a $100 million project to widen 40th Street, a main east Tampa thoroughfare.

The approximately $450,000 that the city paid the family of the late John A. "Big John" Stephens was enough to build a new 2,200-square-foot restaurant, just a bit farther back from the road at 5707 N 40th St. The new facility has expansive indoor and outdoor eating areas, flat screen televisions and plenty of parking.

Those parking spaces, and the side streets surrounding Big John's, were filled with cars Saturday. Other customers just walked on over. They were ready and waiting at 2:30 p.m. for the ribbon cutting.

But first, a dedication.

People thought they were showing up for barbecue, but they ended up in what seemed like a church service. Which is no surprise: Big John was also the Rev. John Andrew Stephens, native of Eufaula, Ala., and founder of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens on W Palmetto Street.

"Thank you," intoned the Rev. C.T. Kirkland, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, as part of his opening prayer to God, "for the pork that is chopped up and cut up and well-seasoned."

A stream of speakers followed, including Callie Crawford, Big John's only living sibling. Janice Nunn-Nelson led the crowd in a gospel hymn and assistant manager Corey Miller, a grandson of Big John, promised "the same customer service you've had for 42 years." The family, he said, remains devoted to upholding Big John's legacy.

By 4 p.m. the crowd was wet and hungry, but smiling. Finally they were getting their barbecue.

"You never know what you'll miss till it's gone," said Demetrious Tolbert, enjoying a rib. "I never knew how much I loved Big John's barbecue until I didn't have it."

Opening day went smoothly but for one glitch. The enormous chimney failed to work properly, so the barbecuing had to be done outside, the drizzle from the sky mixing in with the sizzle on the grill.

Candy Lowe and Julia E. Jackson, sitting inside at a prime table, didn't notice.

Big John's customers for more than 30 years, all they knew was that their favorite barbecue was back, and "it tasted exactly the same," Lowe said, raving over the ribs, baked beans and potato salad dinner that she had just polished off.

Aside from the food, the new building gave the restaurant a surprisingly upscale feel, Lowe added, something she said the neighborhood sorely needed.

"In our neighborhood, we don't have nice establishments," said Lowe, 46, a local tea retailer and president of Tampa's Independent Black Chamber of Commerce. "It's nice to walk in here and see such a beautiful restaurant."

Jackson, 47, a resident of the neighborhood, agreed. Perhaps, she said, other restaurant owners will be inspired by Big John's loyal customer base.

"We've been waiting for a sit-down restaurant in our community," Jackson said. "It's long overdue.

"This," she added, looking around at the long lines and packed dining area, "is eye-opening."

Share business news

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3394 or e-mail

sharonlginn@yahoo.com.

East Tampa's own Big John's Alabama Barbecue reopens 02/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  2. New stores coming to Tyrone Square Mall, like Bath & Body Works

    Retail

    Tyrone Square Mall will welcome a half dozen new stores, like Bath & Body Works and MidiCi's The Neapolitan Pizza Company, this summer.

  3. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach

    Retail

    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  4. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Record rainfall in Los Angeles ultimately may end Tampa Bay's drought of hosting the Super Bowl.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 


Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)