It’s fitting that the home of the Flintstone beef short ribs could soon move into bigger digs.
St. Paul institution Big Daddy’s Old Fashioned Barbecue sits on the northwest corner of the University Avenue and Dale Street intersection -- the very area nonprofit Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) has proposed to redevelop.
The plan calls for the tear-down of Big Daddy’s current building along with a few other nearby properties, most of which are already owned by NDC. Taking their place: a six-story building with units for senior housing, green space, parking, and commercial space. Big Daddy’s, which City Pages named the best BBQ joint of 2017, would be able to return to its original location, but in a brand-new building.
The new owner of the 30-year-old Big Daddy’s, Manuel Tacuri, is a longtime employee who worked under original owners Bob Edmond, Gene Sampson, and Ron Whyte for almost a decade. (He says they still stop in to say hi and see how things are going.) Tacuri is optimistic about the redevelopment proposal: “I think it’s good for neighbors and customers,” he tells City Pages. “New place, new building, new restaurant. I think everything is good.”
Big Daddy’s and NDC are no strangers. Gene Sampson went through NDC’s entrepreneur training class, writing a thorough business plan for Big Daddy’s, according to the Big Daddy’s website. NDC later provided financial support in the form of loans to help the already popular business really take off.
NDC’s goal is to support small businesses and entrepreneurs who may otherwise have difficulty finding training or funding. They offer training and classes in finance, business plans, web design, marketing, accounting, and more. They also work closely with entrepreneurs to create sound fiscal plans and offer financing options and incubator programs.
Edmond, Sampson, and Whyte took advantage of one of those incubators just a few years ago, working with NDC to translate and hone their smoking and barbecue operations from an outdoor to an indoor process.
With that kind of history, it’s no surprise that Tacuri -- along with fellow owners Fernando and Yolanda Plaza -- want to maintain Big Daddy’s location.
“This restaurant is in this area for many years,” Tacuri says. Continuity is important. “Maybe next year they’ll start new construction in this area,” he adds. Should financing come together in a timely manner, NDC in fact does intend to begin redevelopment in March 2019, as reported by the Pioneer Press. For the duration of construction, Big Daddy’s will ideally operate out of a temporary location, which has yet to be determined. (Here again, they'll have some help from NDC.)
But Tacuri is focused on returning to Big Daddy’s original space when all is said and done.
“I really want to maintain the location for the customers,” he says.