Where pigging out is cool
Big Gig BBQ returns for second year on Summerfest grounds


August 31, 2017


Submitted photo

The barbecue’s big at the Big Gig BBQ on Sunday at the Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront.

At a glance
Big Gig BBQ

When: Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Who: 14 barbecue cookers, four live bands, contests, demos.

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Drive, Milwaukee.


Tips and tricks of the trade
Barbecue-challenged? There will be experts sharing their techniques at the South Pavilion.
- 1:15 p.m. - Chicago q “The Competitive BBQ Experience.”
- 4:15 p.m. - Spice House “History of Spices” and “How to Create Your Personal Rib Rub.”
- 5:45 p.m. - Kettle Range Meats “BBQ vs. Grilling”.

MILWAUKEE - Fourteen of some of the best mainly local barbecuers square off.

Sound like your idea of fun?

Oh, and you get to pig out - on pig. Well, not exclusively.

The second annual Big Gig BBQ returns Sunday to the Summerfest grounds.

New this year, the fans of the pit get to vote for their favorites. The winner walks away with the Big Gig Pig award.

“There are sample sizes, so you can purchase a couple of ribs,” Gaye Littell, executive producer for Milwaukee World Festivals Inc., said.

The number of cookers is  up from last year’s 10, and the festival has reached out to Chicago with the inclusion of Chicago q. The hours are expanded from last year, from noon to 7 p.m., covering lunch and dinner.

“All these barbecuers are bringing their specialty sauces. Some of them you can get without a sauce and pick the sauce you like best and put it on yourself,” Littell said.

“There’s everything from pork sliders to barbecue ribs to chicken wings to burnt ends. And there are great sides, like mac and cheese, collard greens, rice and beans, and corn bread.”

There will be hot dogs and other kid-friendly food.

The biggest new thing?

“We have free admission and parking,” Littell said.

While enjoying the smoky creations sounds like more than enough entertainment, there’ll be live entertainment. Appropriately, there’ll be a lot of blues and some country and rock.

Leroy Airmaster with Junior Brantley kicks off the fest with the blues at noon at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard Stage, one of two stages. The Danny Miller Band will serenade the festival with blues down to its nearly final moments, taking the South Pavilion stage at 4:45 p.m. Chasin’ Mason and the Rhythm Kings round up the music lineup.

There’ll be picnic games, like corn hole and Giant Jenga, plus a mechanical pig to ride. There will even be a gigantic inflatable pig to snap a selfie with.

Then there are the contests. Local celebrities will square off in a bacon-eating contest.  2016 champ Eric Hucke, representing Harley-Davidson, will be at the Briggs & Stratton stage at 3 p.m. to defend his crown.

But make no mistake, it’s the barbecue, including chicken and beef, but mainly pork, that’s the centerpiece.

Hint: You might want to try the burnt ends, something you might think should be thrown out rather than put on a menu.

“I would have thought the same thing until I tried them. Contrary to the name, they are delicious. Burnt ends are out of this world,” Littell said.

The 14 cookers are:

n Atlas BBQ, serving Grafton since 2012, is known for its three B’s: BBQ, beer and bourbon. Wait, isn’t that four B’s? From St. Louis ribs to ribwich, there’s plenty to sample. When in doubt, get the sampler platter.

n Chicago q. It serves award-winning fare alongside favorites from the Carolinas, Texas, Missouri and Tennessee. Yes, the burnt ends sound intriguing.

n Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is famous for its Texas-style barbecue. Dickey’s serves up more than Texas-style brisket sandwich, including pork tacos with slaw.

n Double B’s BBQ and Burgers from West Allis is known for its award-winning wings and smoked barbecue. The pork plate and the rib plate are two ways to sample its food.

n Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que slow cooks meats with smoldering hickory logs and hand-rubbed fresh spices. Try one of their sliders and ribs with a cornbread muffin.

n Iron Gate BBQ Co., home of the original “Milwaukee Rib,” takes on the challenge of live-fire barbecue in cooking its pork. Riblets and cucumber dill salad are some of their fare.

n Maxie’s specializes in the “Low Country” cooking of the Carolinas, Creole and Cajun, and slow-smoked Southern barbecue. Besides the barbecue, the sides show its Southern side, including maple-braised collard greens.

n Miss Beverly’s Deluxe Barbecue, part of the Bartolotta Restaurant Group, serves a house-smoked barbecue influenced by a variety of styles from across the United States. Among its unique meats are the hot link kabobs.

n Nino’s Southern Sides focuses on soul food. Choose from rib tips to a whole slab. Red beans and rice are one of the sides that make it Southern. Undecided? Get the sampler.

n Pitch’s, family-owned and operated by the Picciurro family since 1942, is locally and nationally famous for its baby back pork ribs and more. Do you want fries or a shake with your order?

n Saz’s State House is celebrating 40 years. It also has a Wisconsin feel, whether it’s the sliders or fried cheese curds or sour cream and chive fries, not to mention the pork, notably the baby back ribs.

n Silver Spur Texas Smokehouse BBQ, housed in the second-oldest restaurant in Wisconsin, makes ribs Texas style as well as cut like they do in St. Louis.

n Smoke Shack. It’s hard to resist the name or the dry-rubbed, slowly smoked meats. The sauce? It’s up to you. The sloppy slider and Decadent Mac and Cheese sound good.

n The Charcoal Grill & Rotisseries has been a staple at Wisconsin fairs and festivals, including Summerfest. Pulled pork, beef ribs and rotisserie chicken are just some of the barbecue to be had.