My husband and I have crowned ourselves experts in finding the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants around. After hearing several radio advertisements for Big Al’s BBQ, the hubby hinted we should celebrate his birthday there. The BBQ joint sits right across the street from AE Dairy, a landmark on Des Moines’ east side.
With only 10 tables for diners, Big Al’s was cozy but bustling on a Saturday night. We waited about 10 minutes to be seated and watched people continue to filter into the restaurant. Chalkboard walls surrounded guests while the scent of smoked meat permeated the air. The waitress, who was the daughter of the owner, helped us choose items from the menu. We opted for the combo of ribs, wings, a pulled pork and beef brisket sandwich, homemade baked beans, french fries, and deviled egg potato salad. We assumed we’d have leftovers, but my husband’s appetite was larger than he thought.
Our entrée arrived quickly, and we dug in. Every piece of meat was smoked to perfection, and the side dishes were the perfect complement to the carnivorous meal. While we dined, we chatted with the owner, Big Al. He told us he originally opened a catering company out of his garage in Adel, but business grew so much he decided to open his own establishment in Des Moines. The restaurant debuted a little more than a year ago, and Al is thrilled with the success of the business.
Al is no newcomer to the food industry. With a background as a manager, server, and trainer for several restaurants across the nation, and his experience at restaurants in Ames, Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis, Al has learned the secrets of great service and food. As if running a booming catering and restaurant business doesn’t keep Al busy, he also is the official caterer of the Iowa Wild hockey team.
*Picture credit: Big Al's BBQ Facebook Page