For Big Ant’s BBQ in Glassell Park, the key to making irresistible barbecue isn’t in the sauces or rubs. It’s all in the care and patience it takes to make sure each meat reaches peak fall-off-the-bone succulence.
“The number one thing about our food is that I make sure that everything—from the chicken to the brisket to the pulled pork—everything is juicy and tender,” said owner Anthony Hypolite. “It’s not a Texas style, or Memphis, or other style, it’s just delicious barbecue.”
Anthony and his sister Nakita opened Big Ant’s BBQ in February 2019, named in honor of their father, who was known as “Big Anthony.” Anthony Hypolite Sr. started barbecuing on weekends for his church back in 1987, a period which the family regards as the inception of their current business. It was their father who instilled a sense of dedication to the craft of barbecuing.
“The main thing I learned from my father was, there’s no shortcuts,” said Anthony. “You have to care about what you want, for the food to taste good. If you’re going to cook it, then cook it right. Cook like you’re going to eat it, the way you want it.” Accordingly, he approaches each meat with a different technique that he’s refined through trial and intuition.
Big Ant’s BBQ smokes all the favorites, including baby back ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and chicken. Brisket is flavored with a base rub of salt and black pepper, granulated garlic, and onion powder, which helps give it a black bark. The pork is rubbed with a reddish blend of chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, granulated garlic, sugar, and seasoned salt. Each rub contains a few secret ingredients, and both are available to buy at the restaurant.
Anthony’s irregular sleep schedule is a testament to his commitment to pitmastering. By the time the restaurant opens for lunch, he’s reaching the end of his night shift, attentively wrapping dozens of smoked meats in foil to ensure they stay warm and tender until served within the next 6 to 8 hours.
Before being served, the well-rested meats are unwrapped from their foil casings, allowing a rush of steam to release robust aromas, as though they just came straight out of the grill. The slow-cooked beef glistens all over a cutting board as it’s easily sliced into strips. The ribs and chicken are equally tender and messy. Each can be effortlessly dismantled on your plate with a plastic fork.
The only meat option that doesn’t hit the smoker is the fried chicken, which is freshly cooked within 15 minutes. “You can’t rush fried chicken. I put the chicken on the menu because sometimes you don’t want barbecue, or you come for barbecue but your friend wants something else. I love fried chicken,” Anthony admits.
Meat lovers with ambitious appetites might even add a few hot links to their plates. Anthony lightly smokes the sausages then quickly cooks them to order, so that each bite has a crackling snap to it.
For an extra barbeque boost, the baked beans and collard greens are side dishes made with smoky bits of beef and pork. Other side items include creamy mac and cheese, refreshingly crisp coleslaw, buttery corn, and fluffy cornbread. Though the sides are made from simple recipes, they’re treated with as much care as the meats.
“I’m kind of a side guy,” Anthony explained. “My sister and I, we’re black and Korean. And in Korean culture, food sides are super important.”
A good way to sample all the bounty of Big Ant’s BBQ in one dish is to order the Loaded Fries. You get mouthfuls of pulled pork and brisket, and a housemade salsa, which itself is smoked in-house for 3 hours. Drippy nacho cheese and crema tops off the dense pile of flavors and textures.
“It’s got everything in there. You have the saltiness and the crispy with the juicy meats. It has a real good kick to it,” Anthony said, noting that it’s a popular order to share among students from nearby schools.
Even the sandwiches are impressively piled together, with brisket or pulled pork and a layer of coleslaw stacked into a tower between lightly grilled brioche buns. Each sandwich comes with a red Kool-Aid pickle, the sweet and sour result of soaking pickle spears in the famous beverage for kids. It was an idea Anthony borrowed from watching chefs on YouTube. “They come up with new things, and if it looks good to me, I try it out.”
To finish off a savory meal, the Banana Pudding is a sensibly sweet dessert option. Otherwise, the Churro Waffle offers an indulgent combination of flavors seemingly made for Angelenos. A scoop of vanilla ice cream striped with chocolate sauce melts slowly over the crisp cinnamon sugar coating of a warm Belgian waffle.
Altogether, the simple and comforting menu at Big Ant’s BBQ mirrors the restaurant’s easygoing vibe. For Anthony, it’s a welcome change of pace from his past restaurant experiences. “It’s because we’re family here. It’s just chill,” he said. “The food, I make sure it comes out perfect. But other than that, the atmosphere is chill.”
Having started Big Ant’s BBQ as a catering service working from a commercial kitchen, the restaurant now also serves as a central point to prepare for catered events. Located behind a 7-Eleven and across from a donut shop, parking can get tight. But when Anthony’s custom built trailer smoker is stationed out front and fired up, the tempting aromas motivate customers to park in the neighborhood and investigate.
The scent of Big Ant’s BBQ also lures passersby to its two regular pop-up spots. One is for the Downtown lunch crowd at the corner of 1st St and Hope St, which runs Wednesday through Friday from 10:45am. The other is an evening event in the Freeway Plaza parking lot, Mondays through Saturdays. Located at Hoover St and W 20th St in the Pico Union neighborhood near Downtown, the pop-up starts at 5pm. And don’t be late!
“People are going crazy for it, calling us, making sure we’re going to be there,” Anthony warns. “Sometimes we sell out within an hour.”
Check the Foodzooka profile below to find Big Ant’s BBQ hours and pop-up locations, and follow them on social media.