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Photos courtesy of Neil Strawder.
Shortly after it was announced they were closing up their vastly underrated breakfast joint, Neil and Phyllis Strawder have announced that they will also be closing up their flagship endeavor, Bigmista’s Barbecue & Sammich Shop at the end of the month.
“We tried to get out of our lease, but the landlord said no,” Phyllis said. “Then we decided to let them evict us to break the lease but found out we’re still on the hook until the end of the lease. We told them, ‘Fine—we’re leaving,’ but they decided they wanted us out in five days and decided to involve lawyers to evict us.”
Phyllis goes to talk about taking them to court in return—”The old me would do that,” she said—but the reality is that they just plan on paying the cost of a breaking a lease so “we can move on.”
Those plans to move on include stepping out of the state to start a new business, though Phyllis’ concept of business does not involve food. As for Neil, Bigmista himself, he wants to remain in food but also remains uncertain.
“I know people want to know why and the short answer is because we’re grown and we can [move on],” Phyllis said. “The long answer may be a bit more complicated but not much different. Our house is up for sale. We’re tossing or selling whatever we can and traveling light. If Bigmista would let me give stuff away, I’d be done real quick.”
When the Strawders were first eying to open a brick-and-mortar four years ago, they were initially going to open in DTLA at the Medallion Building at 4th and Main. But plans fell through—so they set their smokers upon the land of Long Beach, bringing an LA icon into the territory in such a fashion that regional media went nuts.
Los Angeles Magazine called it “bad news for Downtown but good news for Long Beach.”
The Los Angeles Times lamented the loss of a Downtown barbecue staple, telling patrons that they would have to take the trek to Bludso’s (which closed its Compton location in 2016).
Buzzfeed pitted Bigmista’s ribs against fancier, far more expensive ribs of others joints in a contest, ending with the fact that Bigmista’s was simply the best.
Their passion resulted in just flat-out amazing food—food, mind you, I called some of the most underrated in Long Beach.
Bigmista’s was a force—but one that has, unfortunately, ended in California.
“Suffice it to say, it has been a pleasure serving everyone, even the complainers,” Phyllis said. “We may have worked long hours, bitched, moaned, and ached—but we would not have traded this experience for the world. I love each and every one of the folks that made our business a success and, God willing, we may return to Long Beach.”
Bigmista’s Barbecue & Sammie Shop is located at 3444 N Los Coyotes Diagonal and will remain open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11AM to 8PM, and Sunday from 11AM to 4AM.