Big Daddy's in Massapequa sits just off the Sunrise Highway, very close to the Sunrise Mall. Inside, a long bar greets you at the entry. The joint is dark, relying using dim lighting to set a mood that's aiming for a New Orleans Mardi Gras vibe. There are beads everywhere and trumpets hanging from the ceiling. Framed posters on the wall commemorate a mix of Louisiana events and barbecue contests. Shelves near the ceiling show off an impressive hot sauce collection.
Big Daddy's is first and foremost a Cajun restaurant, featuring gumbo, gator boudin, oysters, Cajun pasta, an andouille-stuffed pork chop, blackened chicked, blackened catfish, po boy and muffaletta sandwiches, jambalaya and a few differerent spins on crawfish. Barbecue is a recent (within the last few years) addition, with a typical roster of St Louis cut pork spare ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken and andouille sausage. Pork and brisket are available on sandwiches, po boys and a 5-meat combo. Ribs are available as whole racks, as a ribs and chicken combo and on the 5-meat combo. Weekly specials include all-you-can-eat fried chicken and ribs on Monday nights, all-you-can-eat Cajun pasta on Tuesday nights, prime rib on Wednesdays and a "hotter than hell" spicy 3-course dinner on Thursdays.
I visited Big Daddy's for a Friday lunch, joined by an experienced barbecue judge.
We started with an order of wings that, thanks to a flexible server/kitchen, were evenly divided among their "mild" (apple chipotle) and "hot" (mango habanero) varieties (a different breakdown from what's on the online menu). These hit the spot, serving up good sized wings that had a firm crust and an instantly recognizable smokiness. The mild ones were a little more tender, but both varieties were cooked just about right. The outstanding mild apple chipotle sauce was just thick enough and artfully combined a gentle heat with gentle but attention-getting sweetness that left plenty of stage for the chicken itself. The mango habanero was also good but had a heat that seemed less integrated into the whole, possibly due to the delayed heat effect.
A brisket sandwich had a generous filling of thin to medium slices of meat, with an equally generous topping of cole slaw that spilled onto the plate. For Reuben lovers and cole slaw lovers like myself, that's a welcome plus. Even more of a plus was that the cole slaw was tasty, with a crunch and heat that were both noticeable even within the sandwich context. The brisket had less of a smoky taste than the wings, but coloring was good (smoke ring) and tenderness was close, leaning just slightly toward overcooked. Beyond the light smoke, the meat had a mildly pleasant flavor. Overall, I'd rate the brisket as easily above average.
Pork on a 2-meat combo supplied big chunks of meat that had miniscule amounts of pink in the sea of white. The flavor was neutral to a fault, with absolutely nothing going on. To compound matters, the pork was undercooked and had a rare combination of meely and tough. Overall, I'd rate the pork way below average.
Ribs on the combo were a thick St Louis cut with a pronounced, rubby crust that was likely crispened up courtesy of a light grill finish. The meat had some pinkness and pockets of moist and pockets of dry, with the fattier areas accounting for the former. A little overcooked, one rib pulled much too easily from the bone, leaving the bone on the plate upon lifting the partial rack. There was a nice flavor in the exterior but less inside. Overall, I'd rate these ribs about average.
Two sweet, thick, tomato-based table sauces were both good but very similar.
Crisp cole slaw was among the best I've had, with red and green pepper, onion, a vinaigratte and some sweet and heat ingredients all melding nicely. Sweet potato fries were a nice compromise between soft and crisp, with good flavor.
The bottom line:
The earliness of the lunchtime visit probably didn't do Big Daddy's any favors, but I'm guessing what we got that day wasn't too far off from what's available at night. Quality was all over the map—wings and cole slaw excellent, brisket good, ribs about average and pulled pork well below average—so all things considered I'm placing Big Daddy's in the middle of the pack among Long Island BBQ restaurants. The atmosphere, diverse menu with Cajun options and especially those wings make Big Daddy's a place worthy of at least a look.
Yelp reviews of Big Daddy's
Urban Spoon reviews of Big Daddy's