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Big John's Alabama BBQ (Tampa)

I decided to make a run to Big John's last night (the 40th street location) and was shocked to find an empty lot. The building has been completely leveled. Anyone know what happened and whether there is a new location in the works? I would be very sorry to lose Big John's. There is still the south Tampa location (I suppose), but the one time I went it seemed like it was not up to the original restaurant's standards. I ended up at Sooo Good Southern BBQ on Hillsborough. The ribs were, indeed, good (some were dry- that happens) but that sweet potato souffle is outrageous.

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  1. I had just the same experience a couple of weeks ago and was devastated! What's the deal? I was taking a friend there who had never been there and was so proud to show it off... What a crushing disappointment!

    Hey CFishman, where is Sooo Good on Hillsborough? Is it a classic Q joint?

    2 Replies
    1. re: rebecca.kukla


      It's strange, if you google Sooo Good Southern BBQ, it comes up with a wrong address (but an accurate picture of the place). While I can't, then, tell you the address, it is easy enough to find. The restaurant is on the south side of Hillsborough about a 1/2 mile east of Taconazo. I noticed the hours the last time I was there and they are closed on Monday and Tuesday. It's basically just a gussied up stand although they have just added an overhang over the two outdoor tables. I can't really imagine wanting to picnic along side Hillsborough but that's just me. I think you will find the BBQ is generally on par with Big John's, Jazzy's, and Cally's Sticky Bones. The sauce is more tomato than vinegar, which might suit some people's tastes better. The fried chicken is pretty good too. Make sure to get the sweet potato souffle.

      1. re: CFishman

        Thanks! I will definitely try it ... and report back on whether it does anything to alleviate my mourning over the loss of Big John's.

    2. I think they are closed b/c 40th St. is widening and they ended up having to tear the bldg down...new one going to be built there as well.

      1. I too was saddened to see BJ's Alabama gone. We walked in the day before they tore it down and was told(by someone who was working on getting stuff outta there) a re-open is coming soon. Will post again once I drive by and see them open.

        1. I am not sure if it is the same owners, but there is a BJs Alambama BBQ that opened on South Dale Mabry within the past year. I know they came from another location that had been opened for a long time....May be the same? It was VERY good bbq.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tampa eater

            I am glad to hear that they are serving good bbq at the south tampa location. I was there in the weeks following the opening and things were a bit chaotic. I now look forward to going back.

          2. They are vowing to return in a new building, same site:
            Sure hope so. They have my vote for best BBQ (though I've never had Ribdog's Q so this is only a slightly informed opinion).
            Here's a roundup of some BBQ joints in Tampa, including Soooo Good...and a few others, and it's making me hungry:
            Here are some more suggestions, courtesy of the Times' Ernest Hooper, who should know:

            4 Replies
              1. re: RibDog

                I don't know who Ernest Hooper is (should I?) but he is right about Smokin' Joe's in Lithia. I had a very good meal there recently. Afterwards, I bought rabbits at Rick's Custom Meats.

                1. re: CFishman

                  Sorry, I assumed too much....Hooper is a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. He makes frequent food references and has the girth of a man who enjoys it.

              2. re: Bergerman

                RibDog has all the restaurants beat.

              3. Big Johns Alabama BBQ has their new foundation form in place. Same location..........I can't wait

                14 Replies
                1. re: Fairy Licious

                  That's good news. I hate to say it but my last meal at the Dale Mabry location was shockingly overcooked. A meal at Jazzy's a night or two later put them to shame with a delicious set of ribs. The ribs were so good that we decided to do a taste test between the rib and pork sandwiches afterwards. Pork won.

                  1. re: CFishman

                    Isn't taste testing fun........a good pulled pork sandwich is hard to beat. I'll have to try out Jazzy's, the reviews I read are top notch. Hope the new Big John's has more seating area, I always had to get my order to go. Also hope they were able to retain that seasoned smoker and grill from the old place. I pass the place often and will post when I see their Grand Opening.

                    1. re: Fairy Licious

                      I thought Jazzy's has really gone downhill as of late, last couple times I went the wait was miserable and the food lost it's magic. When did you go?

                      1. re: askdrtodd

                        I have been to Jazzy's a couple times in the last 4-6 weeks. Both meals were great. The ribs were moist with a good chew to them and the chopped pork sandwich was also very enjoyable. Your experience? BBQ is hit or miss. Sometimes you just show up at the wrong time. At one recent meal at Jazzy's they said they were out of ribs. Other places would just sell you an inedible dried up slab. In my view, Jazzy's shows a lot of care for their food and their customers.

                      1. re: 2critical

                        Jazzy's is just east of the Veterans on Waters.

                        1. re: CFishman

                          For those of you who are waiting for Big John's to reopen, I drove by today and they appear to be making good progress. The new place has four walls, a roof, and most importantly a chimney. I have no idea what the hurdles are to opening a new restaurant (I imagine they are severe in Tampa) but it looks like Big John's will be up and running on 40th Street sooner rather than later. In the meantime, what about a chowhound troll through Brandon and the surrounding area? I am thinking Firstchoice, Down to the Bone, Jaymer's, and perhaps Smokin' Joe's (http://www.tampabay.com/news/business... ). Dinner at Hickory Hollow?

                            1. re: RibDog

                              Me too!
                              I've been really wanting to celebrate some good BBQ recently, but have held off...

                              1. re: Mild Bill

                                I'm heading to the Tampa/St Pete area this weekend--is Big John's open yet? If not, what is the #1 bbq place in the area?

                                1. re: remdog99

                                  Big John's now has a parking lot but is still not open. Sorry, Remdog that we missed your question. I guess it doesn't matter. I would have answered that my recent meals at Jazzy's have been very good.

                                  1. re: CFishman

                                    Ditto on Jazzy's...
                                    I've been very happy there--- and they're 5 minutes from me...
                                    Muy peligroso!

                                    CFishman, thanks for the update on Big John's...
                                    I'm waiting anxiously for the green light!

                                    I'll call in sick that day, so let me know...
                                    It'll be a scene man...

                                    1. re: Mild Bill

                                      jazzy's mac n cheese on friday's is sooooooooo good

                                      1. re: Mild Bill

                                        I was a huge fan of Jazzy's for years (before he spruced the place up and it was way dumpier), and the past couple times I went everything was so mediocre that I couldn't find a reason to return. :(

                                        Side note: BJ's here I come!

                    2. This blurb was over on Laura Reiley's blog at the SP Times;

                      Big John's Alabama BBQ open in temporary spot
                      Got a note from Jim Friley in response to this story yesterday:

                      "I noticed in your article yesterday that Big John's Alabama BBQ was listed in the 'Saddest Restaurant Closures.' There is a bright side to that: Big John's family is relocated temporarily (hopefully to be a new location) in South Tampa on Dale Mabry Highway, a little south of Bay to Bay, across from the Howard Johnson's. They are operating under the name of BJ's Southern BBQ...same family, same great BBQ, same great atmosphere...We in south Tampa are hoping and praying that this location will remain open when the site on 40th Street is resurrected."

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: RibDog

                        Oooooooh.... I wish I knew, I would have gone today!!!
                        Great news!

                        1. re: Mild Bill

                          Ok...... I did go today!
                          After I finally escaped the closed roads, traffic jams, and mile long back-ups, caused from Obama speaking nearby at University of Tampa...
                          I thought I deserved a decadent lunch!

                          You wouldn't know it from my last few experiences and reviews, but I'm a real glass-half-full kinda guy...
                          I've been throwing a lot of cash out the window for someone getting his butt kicked so bad by the economy...

                          I ordered the ribs, center cut, with beans and Mac & Cheese...
                          'Center cut' so I could experience their fattest and juiciest ribs...

                          Service was very friendly, but slow..
                          The cutter/order preparer would take a bunch of orders, then go back and put them together...
                          I almost couldn't deal wth this procedure...
                          A very sparse make-shift lookin' operation thus far...

                          The ribs were what I call 'generic bbq'... Just smoked, with no other noticable seasonings, till total collapse...
                          Fall off the bone X 3...
                          Consequently, the meat was like heavily smoked BBQ pate...

                          The $7.50 platter only consisted of three larger ribs, compared to Kojak's 7+/-, but I could only manage 2-1/2 of these before developing an aversion to the mooshy texture and the abundant smoke flavor...

                          The Mac & Cheese was good, but cold, and the beans were Cinna-beans...

                          I took a chopped pork sammich to go, and I warmed it and we ate it for dinner along with some leftovers...
                          (Incredible shrimp, spinach, tofu, and noodle soup I made----- Damn!
                          It was like a Pho...)

                          The pork was plain & dry, the sauce was sweet and ketchupy, and the bun was el cheapo...
                          Same sauce was on the ribs...

                          The sign on the wall said BJ's Barbecue (formerly Mrs. Flemings) or something like that---- but if this has anything to do with what's in store at Big John's, you can keep all of them!!

                          That was some lazy-ass barbecue!
                          Letting the pit do 'all' of the work!

                          I'm still burpin' hickory....

                          1. re: Mild Bill

                            thanks for the report, Bill. a well written report about a bad experience. i'm curious about sooo good BBQ just east of nebraska on hillsborough. i caught some great smells as i drove by today.

                            1. re: andy huse

                              Yeah, my experiences at South Tampa "Big John's" were not good either. Bad enough that I switched over to Jazzy's for the last year or so. The bbq at Sooo Good is, like many places, sometimes transcendent and other times not. When Sooo Good and Big John's (40th Street) were both in operation, I always found myself driving a little further to Big John's. I will say this for Sooo Good, their sweet potato souffle is excellent.

                              1. re: CFishman

                                Crazy, we drove past BJ's right behind the Obama Cavalcade (we were eating at Pane Rustica and couldn't get across Dale Mabry too).

                                Glad to know it's mediocre and I won't be wasting the calories. Thanks for the review Bill!

                                Also Jazzy's lately has really been disappointing...

                                1. re: askdrtodd

                                  It was right in front of Pane Rustica, where after sitting in backed up traffic for a half hour I made a crazy move, about-faced, and snaked my way thru to Dale Mabry where I found myself staring at 'BJ's BBQ'...
                                  "Hey! This is that place" I said to myself, and pulled in...

                                  So far--- for real BBQ, 'Down to the Bone' in Brandon has most consistently impressed me with their ribs, with Jazzy's next in line, although I haven't been there in a long time...

                                  I have to say tho, and I know this might be controversial-------if I had only one rib meal left in me, it would be at Kojak's....

                                  I know it's not true BBQ, but to me the Grande Rib Dinner (center cut) with Parsley Potatoes and the warm Apple Cake (corner piece please) a la mode for dessert is one of the best meals on earth...

                                  To me, the gentle balanced spices flavor the ribs, while allowing the pork to still come thru----- just enough...
                                  Their texture, pull, and chew, is nearly always spot on...
                                  I think it's a truer celebration of the glorious pig, which is why I feel smoke has to be controlled...

                                  And that Apple Cake is a mammajamma!

                                  Recently I told Shelby, one of the owners and THE person who makes the amazing Apple and Chocolate cakes, that one day, she was going to wake up in my basement....
                                  ---- that I wouldn't hurt her---- but I WOULD get that Apple Cake recipe....
                                  Thankfully she laughed....

                                  1. re: Mild Bill

                                    nice! I was in Jax on a business trip Mon/Tues, on the way back thru orlando I met a buddy at 4 rivers for a quick dinner.


                                    HOLY DEAR MOTHER OF WOW.



                                    1. re: askdrtodd

                                      The brisket at 4 Rivers really is excellent. They say they smoke it for 18 hours. The ribs are a bit tender for my tastes but they definitely get the brisket right.

                        2. re: RibDog

                          That's outsanding! And in more Big John's news: the grand reopening of the new 40th St. store Jan. 30! From Laura's blog:


                          Hope they keep the S Tampa spot too!

                          1. re: Bergerman

                            i was never that impressed with the BBQ at John's, but it was never bad. I suppose i'm a little spoiled.

                            but the ambiance was so right. i wonder what the new building will feel like.

                            1. re: andy huse

                              I'll meet you there, and if it's too fancy we'll eat in the men's room... ;-)

                              1. re: Mild Bill

                                Big John's is finally back open on 40th Street. I went for lunch and it was completely mobbed. I would guess there were 50-75 people. The wait was a good 30 minutes, so if you are in a rush you might hold off. Their opening was delayed because of problems with the grill behind the counter, which is still not operational. Apparently they were barbecuing out back. Still the ribs were very good: nice chew, some smoke, and that vinegar sauce. I am very happy that they are back in business.

                                P.S. I attached a picture if you want to check out the new restaurant.

                                1. re: CFishman

                                  I'll try to pop by when I'm in the area--- at an off hour...
                                  I tend to do that anyway...

                        3. YumYumYum!
                          Tender pork with lots of bark and a Bitchin' sauce!
                          Melt in your mouth collards with lots of chopped stems-just the way I like it.
                          Why do people not eat in at johns? Is it a take out only kind of place?
                          Best bbq i have had in the Tampa area.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: landwhale

                            Hmmmmmm.... Tomorrow MIGHT be a good day for me to try out the new place...

                            Although I did just hit Jazzy's the other day so I'm not quite hankerin' yet...
                            Jazzy's was just OK...
                            I keep getting ribs everywhere I go, so this time I might go with other stuff, like the pork...

                            I've actually been craving a big sloppy BBQ pork sandwich with generous creamy cole slaw and BBQ sauce on the sandwich....
                            Yeah, that's what I'll get....
                            I hope I can make it---- either way thanks LW for the reminder...

                            1. re: Mild Bill

                              MB, have you been up to Cally's on N. Armenia? Last time I was there, I really liked thier que.

                              1. re: Mild Bill

                                Jazzy's on Fridays for the mac n cheese. My office mates have been getting big containers of greens and mac n cheese weekly. They are killing me ;-)

                                1. re: rhnault

                                  Bek Bek, on your recommendation I did get the Mac and Cheese & greens when I was there and I loved it!
                                  Yes, dangerous....

                                  John, there was a recommended BBQ place that I've been wanting to try but I forgot the name... I THINK it is Cally's now that I see it again...
                                  Nice... I'll try soon...

                                  As I type this I'm dealing with a mild BP related headache, so I really should go easy for a spell...

                                  1. re: Mild Bill

                                    Go try the mac n cheese at big John's on 40th. O-M-G. We split a hungry man the other night and still had leftovers. Tried all the meats but the chicken and it was all good. Especially the ribs.