Review: Big Boy BBQ (Melbourne, VIC)

27-31 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9670 9388

I’ve decided to continue my Great Melbourne American-slash-Mexican Foodie Road Trip by writing about Big Boy BBQ (BBB) – only because the boys at work are excited about going there tomorrow for a pre-trivia night feed. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join them for ribs because I’ll be coming in from Richmond and plus, I’m a tad over meat after having lasagne infused with Indonesian bay leaves (don’t ask) three meals in a row. So in my absence tomorrow (at least for the BBB), here are my thoughts on Melbourne’s favourite slow-cooked BBQ franchise which originated in Caulfield South.

Due to the success of the first store, a Melbourne CBD store opened up – much to the joy of those who barely go to Caulfield. BBB, as its name suggests, specialises in barbecued meat. It doesn’t matter whether you order a sandwich or a rack of ribs, the meat at BBB is always rubbed in an intoxicating mixture of spices before being smoked at a low temperature for up to 16 hours. How low? Low enough so that the meat isn’t piping hot when it arrives at your table after you had placed your order at the counter.


Marty and I found that the meat dishes here are flavoursome on their own; however an army of homemade sauces are available on each table if you want to drown your ribs or chips in them.

So what dishes are available? Ribs and sandwiches seem to be the way to go here, but you can also get brisket and wings. You can order them on their own, or upgrade to a regular combo for an extra $6 if you want a side and a bottomless self-serve soft drink, Costco-style. If you have a big appetite, then the jumbo combo (an extra $7.50) will give you a jumbo-sized side and soft drink. We were hungry but not THAT hungry so we both ordered sandwiches in a regular combo…

Kansas City-style dry rubbed pork ribs ($29 for half a rack)
Kansas City-style dry rubbed pork ribs ($29 for half a rack)

… but not because ordering a serving of ribs. There are three kinds of ribs on offer, the pork, the lamb and the Kansas City-style dry rubbed pork ribs. We chose the latter as we’ve never had dry pork ribs before and plus, the flame symbol next to the item description on the menu – indicating that it was spicy – sucked me in.

The ribs were served on top of two slices of white bread (which we didn’t touch) and a side of pickles. Marty made comment about how they looked similar to St Louis-style ribs – as in, they were cut into little blocks. While the ribs themselves were hardly hot, they were extremely delicious. The first thing I noticed was that there was a LOT of meat attached to each bone. The second thing I noticed was that they were square-shaped. How cool! One would also think that dry rib meat would be tough (well I did anyway) so I was pleasantly surprised to see the meat fall off the bone so easily. That said, I did miss all the lovely stickiness and sauciness that I’m used to experiencing when it comes to eating ribs though.

The Carolina, $9.90
The Carolina, $9.90

Marty had the Carolina sandwich combo, with a potato salad as a side. Customers ordering The Carolina have two options: the pulled pork or the pulled lamb, with the latter being slightly dearer. Marty might love his pork but in the end, he chose the lamb as he’s never had pulled lamb before.


Marty finished his burger faster than Busta Rhymes on speed, an indicator that it was very good. The lamb, which was tender, married with a handful of coleslaw and finished with a tangy BBQ sauce. Oh Carolina! Meanwhile, the potato salad was lovely – it was creamy but without being too heavy, making it a slightly healthier substitute for chips.

The ‘Zee’ Man burger ($12.90)
The ‘Zee’ Man burger ($12.90)

I ordered the Zee Man burger combo, with chips on the side because stuff being healthy. BBB’s Zee Man burger was, according to the menu, ‘inspired’ by a burger with the same name from Kansas City BBQ franchise Oklahoma Joe’s. If Oklahoma Joe’s version is anywhere near as good at BBB’s version, then I’d actually consider going to Kansas Missouri just to eat the burger when I get around to organising my real American road trip.


I could not fault my meal. The beef brisket slices may have been a little lukewarm but it was a small price to pay for such a tantalising sandwich. The smoky and fatty meat matched perfectly with the sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, while a sliced of smoked cheese provided the mandatory element of saltiness. Meanwhile, little bits of fried onions strings provided some textural crunch inside the burger – and we were also grateful for the extra strings littered all over the waxed paper. Oh, and the chips were fab too.

We said ‘no’ to dessert because we were full, but I shall not pass up a chance to try their peanut butter cream pie the next time I’m here (yes, there will be a next time!). And although it’ll be difficult to return and NOT order the Zee Man burger again, I would really love to try their lamb ribs. I’m still not used to eating ribs that are warm rather than hot but hey, if they taste as good as they do at BBB then it’s a fair trade-off.

Question: Who has a good onion strings recipe?

Big Boy BBQ on Urbanspoon

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    1. I agree that most places on Hardware Lane aren’t fantastic, but there are some gems there. Big Boy BBQ, Creperie Le Triskel, La Belle Miette and Campari House to name a few…

  1. I love ribs that are sticky and slathered in sauce so BBB’s look dry but looks are deceiving going by your review! I’d love to find Melbourne’s best BBQ ribs!!

    1. Squires Loft in Sth Yarra has great ribs (ask for them to be a little burnt to get the full flavour). Lots of meat on them. The best ribs I’ve had recently were in Handoff just outside Adelaide in SA. So good, I’ve flown back to Handoff just for the ribs… mmm hungry now.

      1. I haven’t been to Adelaide since I was a kid but I know I need to go back at some point. Do you remember the name of the ribs restaurant? I’ll definitely check it out!

  2. Ah, but remember, Kansas City is often heralded as the barbecue capital of America, but it ain’t Kansas, it’s Missouri. Amber schooled me on that during me first visit to KC, MO! 😉

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