Big Daddy’s BBQ: Smokin’ in St. Paul


Ron Whyte was visiting with a passing bicyclist in front of his restaurant, Big Daddy’s Barbecue, when I came by for an interview.  The small restaurant in Frogtown is a friendly part of the neighborhood.

“We started barbecuing at backyard parties in St. Paul. Then we did Rondo Days and Rib Fests,” said Whyte.  “We have been barbecuing for 30 years now and … we have been at different locations.”  They have been at their present location for more than a year.

“I want our customers to feel they are part of us,” said Whyte, one of three owners of the restaurant.  “Hospitality is our standard.  I want you to feel comfortable and to answer your questions.”

Big Daddy’s Barbecue is located at the corner of Dale and University just two blocks north of I-94 in St. Paul.  Call 651-222-2516 or stop by at 625 University Avenue. 

The restaurant is truly a take-out.  Their space is small with the front wall being all windows. The rest is cheerfully painted yellow and if you want to stay there is a counter with stools. His employees at the counter were friendly and helpful.  Big Daddy’s has six employees.

The simple menu offers generous portions of beef or pork ribs, and chicken halves or quarters.  One order can easily feed two people or a family.  Sides are potato salad, collard greens, coleslaw, or baked beans. Desserts are lemon or chocolate cake.  Lunch specials are ribs on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 to 3 p.m.  

“Our most popular meal is our pork spare ribs,” said Whyte. “We use to smoke outside but now we do it all inside.  We slow cook, smoke with hickory wood and have our own special seasoning recipe.  Bob Edmond [another owner] does our cooking.”  They also do catering, with some of their larger customers being Medtronic, Seagate, graduations, and Christmas parties.

When Whyte was asked what advice he’d give someone who wanted to start their own business, he suggested going through the training offered by the Neighborhood Development Center.  “They cut through a lot of the red tape.  They listen to your ideas and offer support,” said Whyte.  “NDC owns the building we are in.  We rent our space from them.”

The three owners are Gene Sampson, Don Whyte, and Bob Edmond.  Sampson and Whyte have been friends since their childhoods in Kentucky.  Edmond is from Georgia. 

“The best part of having a business,” said Whyte, “ It is your own accomplishment not someone else’s. Our challenge is customer satisfaction.”