Neil Strawder sells his goods at farmers markets throughout Southern California. Inevitably, his booth is one of the most popular at any given time. But he's not selling broccoli rabe or Swiss chard. He's selling Texas barbecue.
Strawder is a native of Galveston - BOI, or born on the island - and graduated from Galveston Ball High School in 1982. A series of careers eventually led him to Southern California and while working a conventional job in the banking industry he started reading blogs and online forums about barbecue. Starting with a small grill on his patio, he began working on his technique. Eventually he became a member of a competitive barbecue team, and also began catering. He opened Bigmista's Barbecue in 2008.
I visited Strawder at a farmers market in El Segundo, California (near the Los Angeles International Airport) back in May. For a visiting barbecue aficionado, the sweet smell of burning post oak wafting through the throngs of tanned Californians milling about produce stalls was the ultimate welcome. The barbecue is legit. And indeed Strawder has racked up quite a few prizes over the last few years. Most recently, Bigmista's was named as one of the 5 Best Barbecue Joints in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. Previously, he was listed in food writer Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential Restaurants in LA. He also appeared in TLC's reality show BBQ Pitmasters.
Fortunately, for those Houstonians who want to get a taste of Strawder's barbecue, he still has family in Galveston and will be visiting for a charity event on Saturday, March 17th. Strawder's mom, Pat Tate, still lives in Galveston and is a member of the St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church, the oldest African-American Episcopal Church in Texas. Strawder will be rolling his barbecue rig into Galveston to cook up brisket, chicken and sausage. All proceeds will go to church repairs.
But Strawder won't be alone in his meat-smoking activities. Other barbecue brethren who are expected to join include several veterans of the Houston Livestock Show BBQ Cook-offs as well as pitmaster John Mueller from Austin (who was recently profiled in a Texas Monthly feature). Additionally there will be a zydeco band playing, and a bouncing house and face painting for the kids.
Barbecue will go on sale at 11am Saturday, March 17th. The cost is $10 for a one-meat plate and $13 for a two-meat plate. Whole briskets will be available for $75. You can also call ahead before March 14th to reserve a brisket. Contact info below.
IMPORTANT: There will only be so much barbecue available and they will run out sooner or later. If you're driving from Houston, make sure and get there are early as possible. If you're coming later, it is highly recommended to call ahead and check availability.
Address: St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church, 1410 41st Street (Jack Johnson Blvd.) at Ave. M-1/2, Galveston, TX 77550. 409-763-4254.