16804 Lorain Road
Cleveland, OH 44111
by Scarlet Pumpernickel
East Carolina pulled pork is not the kind of thing you normally expect to see on the menu of a cheese steak restaurant in Cleveland. Like most styles of BBQ, it’s very regional, and if you’ve never had it, you might not think it sounds too appealing, because the sauce is essentially vinegar with seasoning. But just try it once, and you’ll fall in love, which is what I did during my time living in North Carolina, and why I was so excited to see it on the menu at Big Daddy’s.
Although, I didn’t actually order it the first time I went to Big Daddy’s. I ordered the special instead. I didn’t know it was an option until I actually looked at the menu while I was waiting for my sandwich. I don’t usually order without looking at the menu, but as I walked in, and the man behind the counter greeted me and started explaining the special of the day, a gentleman who was leaving interrupted and told me to just order the special because it was delicious. What was I supposed to do? Say no?
That’s perhaps the best thing about Big Daddy’s: it’s such a small and comfortable place, you will end up having a conversation will the other customers, you will be subjected to the cook’s Jungle Cruise-caliber jokes (and just like the Jungle Cruise, he will apologize for how bad they are) and you will get to enjoy an extended monologue from the late night waitress about how when her ex-roommate moved out, she stole her dresser, from her room, while she was at work. It’s a place where you can be called a regular the third time you go there.
And it was on that third visit that I finally actually had the pulled pork. The second time I went the week after my first visit, they were out of the pulled pork, but they were unloading a fresh hunk of pork off the supply truck while I was there and the cook, Frank, was happy to talk about their cooking process with me. They do it right, slow cooking it for 14 hours with a dry rub, and then they sauce it up to order, which allows them to offer a variety of pulled pork options. I just needed to come back at least 14 hours later, when they had a fresh batch ready.
Which I did, but I forgot to account for the fact that they close and re-open on Friday and Saturday nights to attract the late night crowd. I was therefore forced to wait all the way until the late night hours the next night for my sandwich.
It was worth the wait.
While barbecue sauces get most of the attention from common consumers, good barbecue is actually a holistic combination of texture and sauce. Good sauce is easy; you can buy it in a bottle. Good texture, though, requires proper cooking, and this means slow-cooking. That's why the weekend griller can buy the same sauce that the pros use (and bottle) but not be invited to participate in state-wide or national championships; the actual cooking matters more. The recipes for great sauces are closely guarded secrets; great texture is an art. The East Carolina pulled pork at Big Daddy’s is the real deal, with pork as soft as it can be without being too soft, and a vinegar sauce that you can smell at ten paces. Their coleslaw is also perfect for dumping on top of the sandwich if you want to eat it in true Carolina fashion. The one unusual addition is their homemade cheese sauce, which is a definite improvement.
The other styles of pulled pork are good as well, as is the cheese steak (both the original and sauced variations), and the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches are great, too. If you have any specific questions, please ask in the comments. I have had everything on the menu besides the salads, but in my defense, I do go almost every week, which probably says more about the place than anything else I’ve written above.