VALERA - When it comes to barbecue, Lynn Owens, AKA “Big O” knows a thing or two because he's been cooking it up at Big O's Restaurant for a quarter of a century in his little corner of the world, known as Valera, which is about 26 miles east of Ballinger on US Highway 67.
VALERA - When it comes to barbecue, Lynn Owens, AKA “Big O” knows a thing or two because he’s been cooking it up at Big O's Restaurant for a quarter of a century in his little corner of the world, known as Valera, which is about 26 miles east of Ballinger on US Highway 67.
He never knows who or how many might stop in to get some of his famous brisket, sausage, potato salad and beans. He's also got a menu full of other offerings including chicken fried steak, chicken strips, hamburgers and the Big O's Special which is chopped steak cooked with cheese, onions, jalapenos, smothers with "scratch gravy" and served with Texas toast and French fries.
Folks travel from all around these parts and make sure when they are near Valera, they make sure to stop.
Big O’s is the only business in the unincorporated community Coleman County. And each day, the population of about 125 souls grows a little from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, while Big O is serving up his “cue” or his specials like ribs on Friday and juicy ribeye steaks on Saturday night.
“It’s all about the customers,” Big O said. “They haven’t run me out of town yet.”
And, he gets folks from all over the country especially during hunting seasons.
“I’m pretty busy from dove season all the way to February,” Big O said. “I get lots of folks from Ballinger, Coleman and Brownwood and from San Angelo to Dallas/Fort Worth.”
He also gets lots of quail hunters from Arkansas and Louisiana who like to hunt turkey and deer. Plus, he gets the Friday night football crowd during football season.
“You never know who you’re going to get,” he said. “Every day is a different day.”
David Williams, of Midland, who is building a place in Mills County outside of Brown County, stopped in on this day to pick up some barbecue. And he like everyone else likes to take time out to shoot the breeze with Big O and catch up.
“I’ve been by here seven times in the last two months since I found out about this place,” Williams said.
Terry Armes, of Williamsville, Missouri, who was working for the Corps of Engineers clearing brush near San Angelo, broke down in Valera that day.
“I broke down here for a reason,” he said as he waited on his ride. “He’s really a good fellow.”
A few days earlier, 60 folks who were traveling from Odessa to a funeral, stopped in to eat. Big O said it was a larger crowd than he is used to getting but “we handled it.”
“They were really nice,” he said.
The Odessa native graduated from Odessa High in 1975. He would go on to work for Texas Instruments in Abilene and when that job ended, he decided to open up a convenience store in Valera.
“I used to sell barbecue sandwiches that were made with meat that was already prepared,” he explained. “I decided I could do it better, so I got a barbecue pit and started cooking and well, the rest is history.”
He has been married to his wife Trisha for 25 years and he says “she keeps me in line.”
But if you ask most folks around these parts if they know Big O’s they will say yes.
“One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever had came from a barber in Brownwood a few weeks back,” Big O recalled with a smile. “He said Big O’s is the ‘most talked about restaurant in Brownwood.’”
Big O is also, well, the biggest employer in town. Hayden Harper, 21, of Coleman is his night manager and has been working there for two years.
“Every day is a different day,” Harper said smiling.
On this day, about eight cowboys, spurs and all, from Colorado City stopped in for lunch.
Kyle Tate said he got one of his newest offerings called “The Big Mitch” which is a hamburger patty, chopped beef, grilled onions, jalapenos, cheese and barbecue sauce.
“It was excellent,” Tate said.
But overall, it is his customers that keep Big O in the game, no matter what. They draw caricatures on napkins and he hangs them on the wall alongside a mesquite sign that a buddy made him.
“Not matter what, our customers are quality folks,” he said. “And we’re going to take care of them.”