An Anthony Bourdain quote painted on the wall at Big Rig’s BBQ in Monroeville reads, “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”
Owners Josh and Susan Toney, along with Chef Eric Delliquadri, hope diners will reach similar culinary enlightenment at their new restaurant.
They’re serving large portions of brisket, pork belly, pulled pork, kielbasa, burnt ends and baby back ribs year-round. The indoor smoker, which runs on hickory, cherry and apple woods, burns around-the-clock, filling the air around Center Road Plaza.
Everything — from the rubs and sauces to the sides and desserts — are made in-house. And the portions are ample.
When the joint opened Oct. 1, customers consumed six to eight racks of ribs a day. Then word spread among local carnivores and the number jumped to 24. Sometimes they sell out before dinnertime rolls around.
A 20-year veteran of the fine dining scene, Josh Toney originally intended to open an Italian restaurant. The cuisine is his first love and the inspiration behind his nickname “Rigatoni,” which eventually morphed into “Big Rig.”
A guys’ trip to Mabel’s BBQ in Cleveland convinced Toney to open his own smokehouse.
“We sat down, we took a bite and we were blown away,” he says. “We didn’t talk; we just ate and ate. Even our waiter was impressed.”
When he returned home, he bought a smoker and some cookbooks and began experimenting with different rub recipes, cuts of meat, kinds of wood and temperatures. He called upon his friend Delliquadri — the pair worked together at Cenacolo Restaurant in North Huntingdon — and they started smoking.
The Toneys thought about launching a food truck, but Pittsburgh weather rained out their plans. When the Center Road storefront became available, they took it as a sign. It’s a short drive from their Plum home, so they’re able to spend more time with their son, “Little Rig.”
Big Rig’s menu pays tribute to barbecue regions of the country: Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City and the Carolinas. Eventually, the restaurant will offer classes on different styles.
In addition to heaping helpings of smoked meats, there are sandwiches including classic pulled pork and Nashville hot chicken, an array of side dishes such as baked beans, sweet vinegar cole slaw, twice-fried potatoes, mac and cheese and cornbread with honey butter. There also are bites for kids and three types of pudding for dessert. The staff is working on a catering menu.
The customer base is already loyal. When a young man walked through the door, an employee smiled and asked, “Brisket Grilled Cheese Sandwich?”
The patron proudly nodded. It was his third time there that week.
Big Rig’s BBQ (bigrigsbbq.com, 412-646-5250) is located at 226 Center Road, Monroeville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.