James Jones, also known as “Big Cat” among family and friends, said he loves barbecue and golf. Golf gave him his nickname, and barbecue gave him his business, Big Cat BBQ, in Cedar Park. The restaurant celebrates its one-year anniversary in August.
In his hometown of Cuero, Texas, Jones said he and a thin friend with whom he played golf earned the nicknames “Little Cat” and “Big Cat.” He said he has been stuck with the name ever since.
Jones worked as a paramedic for 28 years until he was injured and forced to retire from the industry. The self-proclaimed barbecue lover, who started cooking at age 12, began participating in barbecue competitions near his hometown east of San Antonio, such as the Cuero Turkey Fest and the Yoakum Tom Tom Festival.
“It takes a little while to figure out what the judges want,” he said. “Because in competition you get one bite, and that’s what the judges score you on. So you have to create a memory for them.”
His ribs and brisket have earned him several first-place trophies, and his chicken and turkey have earned him second- and third-place selections. He competed for 10 years and also offered catering, he said.
“And people said, ‘You cook this good—you need to open a restaurant,’” Jones said. “So we did.”
He opened Big Cat BBQ in August 2015. The restaurant offers brisket, beef, pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey and sausage. The menu also includes sandwiches, breakfast tacos and a variety of sides, such as homemade macaroni and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw and beans.
“It is going really, really well,” employee Hunter Bolen said of the restaurant. “It has taken off more than we ever could have dreamed.”
Jones said he recently purchased a larger oven that can be hauled to catering events. He said the added capacity will come in handy when Big Cat BBQ is featured as the Official Barbecue of Texas Tailgate with Austin radio station KVET during the upcoming football season.
Game day special
This deal is featured during all Texas Longhorns, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans games:
• Four pounds of meat
• Three large sides
• One loaf of bread
• Plus pickles, onions and barbecue sauce