"Big John's Feed Lot by Brenda"
Last June, Don and I stopped for lunch at "Big John's B-B-Que"...
Or was it "Big John's Feed Lot by Brenda" ? That's the very odd name that was listed on the internet.
Tiny Red Shack
Even with Mapquest we got lost in the somewhat desolate outskirts of Big Spring. We flew right by little red diner.
The gravel parking lot was humongous, in comparison. By 11:30 it was practically full. Our Subararu looked very out of place with all the pickups.
The little building reminded me of a summer camp bunkhouse or maybe a little red school house.
The corrugated metal walls had been spiffed up with red paint and there was a potted plant, but I was a bit intimidated. Was this place even safe? There seemed to be some kind of swinging cage-door and a padlock. I hoped non-locals would be welcome.
I paused to let John Wayne greet me from a window. I admired the rustic wood accents and Uncle Sam popping up.
I wished I could peek in one of those windows to check the place out, but I couldn't see in. There was reflective silver foil, covering the glass. No peeking allowed.
Cozy and Welcoming
We headed for the door, which had a nifty spring on it. There were a number of people waiting to be seated and no room to step inside. I hope we didn't let in too many flies, since it took a minute before we could step all the way in.
But a busy place is a good sign and I didn't mind waiting. I studied the painted concrete floors and the rustic pillars that appeared to hold up the ceiling. Or was that the roof? The "ceiling" seemed to be a tricky combination of chickenwire and black plastic liner.
There were numerous servers bustling about. They all seemed in decent spirits. One led us to one of the 8 tables, in the front room. We were surrounded by rustic decor. Lots of John Wayne images!
There were lots of repurposed containers holding plants. I wondered how they could grow without window light.
Our server was friendly and very busy, waiting on lots of hungry workmen, a seated in our area. There seemed to be a lot of trucker hats, hunkering over Styrofoam plates, piled hight with BBQ. There was a lot of tea drinking going on.
I studied the menu for something that wasn't bbq. I also studied the title of the menu. Who was John and who was Brenda? And what was the deal with feed lot?
Hand Washing Time
After placing our order, it was hand washing time. Always a wise idea, but mostly it gave me a reason to check out the other dining room.
The big room was packed with diners and more John Wayne decor. On the wall, there were some cowboy hats and twinkly lights and I spotted the same curious ceiling .
I didn't have time to read all the signs, but the one next to the deer head stood out. "God Made... Jesus Saved... Texas Raised" Oh my.
Eventually I stepped through a drink station, to find the door to the single bathroom. As a raised my fist to knock, the door swung open and I was face to face with a tall man. Awkward. I stepped inside the airline sized space and accidentally let the spring loaded door slam. I let out a yelp of surprise and quickly washed my hands. I kept a distance from the toilet, with its plywood tank cover. Is that even okay? When I opened the door, I was greeted by a smiling man in a cowboy hat. My flipflop stumbled over a bump in the threshold, as I tried to get around the man. We both laughed and by the time I stepped back into the dining room, a table of ladies was hooting. They'd witnessed the amusing scene.
The laughing ladies were a fun bunch. We ended up chatting. One said she'd been coming to Big John's for 40 or 50 years... back when Big John owned it. I asked about Brenda and they pointed her out, coming towards us, in her glasses and tennis shoes. They said Brenda and her husband kept all the decor when they bought the place about 20 years ago.
Our food came pretty quickly. Don loves BBQ, so ordered a 2-meat plate for $14. Beans, slaw, pickle and Texas toast took up some of the plate.
His plate looks tiny in this photo, but it was more than he could eat. Or maybe he just wasn't thrilled with the brisket and overcooked ribs. He's kind of picky. Everyone around us was devouring food, so it might have been him.
Salad With Smoked Chicken
I hit the jackpot! My salad for $10. was pretty amazing and it came on a real plate. The chicken was moist and plentiful. There were rings of onion, a hardboiled egg, cheese, tomatoes and fried tortilla strips. Homemade thousand island was extra yummy.
While Don picked at his meal on Styrofoam, I gobbled my salad and also conversed with a diner or two. Everyone seemed to stare as if I were the first person who ever ordered a salad at Big John's. One woman with arms covered in tattoos stopped and begged to know what I was eating. I gushed about my delicious salad and she shook her head and smiled like she might just give it a try.
After we finished up, I grabbed a paper towel from the table and cleaned my hands. No more trips to the scary bathroom.
But then a surprise treat appeared. Our server wandered through the tables carrying a tray of small cups. Complimentary Oreo Chocolate Chip Pudding! A nice little end to our meal.
Don and Stan
We headed to the counter with our bill and got to meet Brenda's husband, Stan. He was a friendly guy who wanted to know where we were from and where we were headed. I asked if he had any idea how many John Wayne's were in the restaurant. "Too many!" he laughed. He said they didn't have room for any more, but people frequently try to add to the collection.
He introduced us to Brenda when she was dashing by with her hands full. They seemed like a good team. He was calm and chatty. She was quick and busy.
On Our Way
As we walked to the car, I spotted just a few men lingering in the lot. There had been so many more men chatting near trucks when we arrived.
Just an hour earlier, I'd been worried that we might be getting ourselves into a "why did we come here?" kind of dining adventure. I left feeling content and satisfied. Don maybe a little less so, but we were in good spirits. Colorado bound!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.