Restaurant Life

The Curb Appeal Remodel

I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Ozark mountains and the Buffalo River speak to my soul in a way few other places ever have, and my roots here are deep. Even so, I’ve struggled with making a decision about whether or not I really want to stay here forever, since I do have a little bit of wanderlust wrapped around those roots. A couple things happened last week that forced a lightning decision (haha).

Last fall, my walk-in cooler finally bit the dust after about 3 years of babying along a worn-out compressor unit. I decided to go all-out and replace both inside and outside components, essentially making my cooling system all new and ultra-reliable. I need the walk-in unit since we hang bacon in it as well as store all our meats. Big Springs business is heavily based in proteins, and we sell about 100 pounds of brisket weekly, in addition to pork loin, ham, turkey, bacon, polish sausage… Plus cheese and all our veggies for sides. Last “weekend,” which is Monday and Tuesday for us, lightning struck the compressor on my new cooling system. Since it was the weekend, I didn’t realize it until the temperature rose up above the safe zone, so we lost all the food in it that had to be refrigerated. Since we had to wait for parts to be ordered (hooray for living in a rural area!), I decided to do a remodel on the outside of the restaurant.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with roots and staying in St. Joe, if you’ve bothered to read this far. Remodeling on this scale is a big investment, in materials and time. It was a borderline excruciating decision for me to do this, since it seems to commit me to staying here for a while, at least. It desperately needed doing. The outside of the building was looking worn and haggard, and I honestly think it turned a lot of people off who may have enjoyed the food and service once they got past the way the outside looked.

front view.jpg

Yeah, that shot is from 2016, and everything just sagged and aged since then. So I bit the bullet and dove into a complete overhaul of the outside. I hope this will do a few things for us: Make my employees proud to work here, make people more likely to bring family and friends here to eat, catch the eyes of travelers on Highway 65 so they stop, and increase our referrals from the outfitters and lodging owners in the area. Kathy, Missy, my mom, and I did most of the labor, with some really excellent assistance from Joe and Eddie.


Paint Prep

We took down all the old deck spindles and power washed our old deck boards as best we could. We had to just call a stopping point or power wash for two weeks, there was so much old paint and stain on here. The main thing was to get all the dirt and leaves out of the cracks so we didn’t drag it out on brushes and rollers as we painted. We also hit the building with the power washer to get dirt and grime off and help the paint stay. I have found that the exterior of a metal building can be painted with regular exterior paint. I mean, you’re not gonna get 20 years out of it, but it’ll look good for several years.


Seriously, it takes 4 hours to mask and 30 minutes to spray the paint on. The girls did an excellent job taping off all the windows and doors. Also, check out that really really crappy-looking wall and trim.




We chose a dark blue-gray for the building and a light natural color for the porch. People driving by have thought we replaced the lumber, but we didn’t. We used “Deck-Over” from Home Depot, which did a pretty good job of “repairing” the flaws in the old boards. We thought we could roll it onto the flat parts, but we were sadly mistaken. We did the rails, then put up our really awesome welded-wire in the spaces where little kids and small pets might fall off the porch, then came back and did the flat parts, all by hand with a brush. I told the girls that it was a $400 solution to a $10,000 problem. I honestly think this will extend the life of our deck by about 5 years.


We added some cool little details, like this cute sign (yo, tag us on instagram when you take pictures beside it @bigspringsgirls). Closer to summer, we’ll get some more tables for the patio.


The blessing box has moved around to the front side of the patio, and the old barn tin has been replaced with these cool pickets that will weather to a nice soft grey. Eddie and Joe put these up for us, and I think they look amazing!


Shelby and Summer

Our interior didn’t completely miss out on the super-fun stuff. This wall in our small dining room was pretty beaten up from being smacked with chairs and stuff, so we decided to do something creative with it. We had this grey paint left over from another project, and decided to just paint half the wall. Turns out that it’s almost impossible to tape a straight line on this stupid tin. Instead, we deliberately made it crooked and turned it into mountains. I added the John Muir quote, but you can definitely tell that I have granny hands. The letters are a little crabbed and shaky. Oops.

There are several other little details that I hope you notice and enjoy the next time you come to eat with us. And I do so sincerely hope you come. I want, when all is said and done, for Big Springs to be a place that locals are proud to bring their out-of-town guests to. I want my employees to be proud to work here. I want this to be a fun, funky place to hang out with your friends and family. If you’re one of the guys who eats lunch here during his work week, I want you to think this place is nice enough to bring your wife to dinner on the weekend. If you work at an outfitter or own a nightly rental for the river, I want you to feel confident that you can send your customers here for a great meal in a cool spot.

I need to say a big giant THANK YOU to Kathy and Missy, my parents, and my husband for making what I saw in my head turn out the way I wanted to. Thank you.

The Valentine's Day Hangover

For Valentine’s day this year, we did things a little different then in years past. We tried to make things a little bit more casual, to appeal to some of our younger customers and also because we have been a little bit short staffed recently - but it was a flop; in our honest opinions. See, for the past few years we’ve gone all out on VDay - tablecloths, fancy dress, flowers and candles. This year we just did our regular restaurant setup, but we ran a steak special and it was so…. blah. We sold some steaks, and they were good… but we didn’t have the turnout that we normally have for the holiday. Our desserts were amazing, and we promoted them as a part of our special… but it wasn’t enough.

Our Specials for Valentine’s Day

Our Specials for Valentine’s Day

As a result, we here at Big Springs Trading Co. have had to ask ourselves some important questions - questions that we really don’t want to consider. Has our food quality changed? What about our service? Or… gasp… could it have been the ambiance?

After asking ourselves these difficult questions, it seems that ambiance is the answer. Not going all out really hurt us this year - if we had done our special Valentine’s Day dinner, it’s likely that we would’ve gotten busier. People appreciate those special details that we offer for the holiday - without them, people were more willing to make a longer drive to get those details instead of dining in at their local restaurant. They look forward to us making it special for their significant others, and without that draw they were more willing to go somewhere else to make them feel special. Because everyone wants their spouse to feel special on Valentine’s Day - they don’t want same old same old, they want to feel like they’re spoiling them.

So we’re disappointed in ourselves this year - we let our community down by not offering the services that we normally offer and we all feel bad about it. So here’s to the Valentine’s Day hangover - may we know better next time, because our community needs us to make them feel special.

Product Review: Pork Ribs

One of my suppliers recently sent me a whole entire box of ribs to try out. Such a burden for us. Gawd, we could barely stand it. I’ve been down just about every road lined with ribs there is, so these were nothing new, exactly, but I told him I’d write him up a good product review, so here goes. By “good,” I mean thorough, not necessarily positive. Expect some snark, here. This post is mainly directed at my fellow restaurant-owners, and probably my cousins who like to use their Treagar grills and Big Green Eggs.

Some background, first. I used to have baby-back ribs on my menu full-time, but as the popularity of home-smoking has grown, the price of easy-to-use cuts like baby-backs has gone up. Baby-backs cook quickly and evenly and yield a consistently good end product as long as they aren’t over-cooked. Currently we use St. Louis style ribs, which are larger than baby-backs, but a good bit less expensive. We run them as a special every few weeks, or we’ll do them as a special order or catering item. The St. Louis ribs take a little longer and a little more finesse to cook, but my customers like them since they feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck.

The ribs I got from Pat (my overly-nice food rep) are country-style ribs, meaning they aren’t trimmed, the “knuckle-bone” thingies are still on the bottom. You’ll notice that baby-back ribs have round bones, and as you work your way up to the larger country-style, the end bones are flat. Almost always, the meat is thicker on top of country ribs but there is less meat in-between the individual bones, as was the case with these.


From Performance Foods, these ribs come packed 3 racks in a cryovac, 3 packages to a case, so 9 racks in the box. If you’re a small-volume joint like we are, this is not the absolute best, since you’ll have to do at least 3 racks at a time. Actually though, I would only do fewer than that if I were doing a special order, so maybe it doesn’t matter so much. I’m always down for easier opening, and this is definitely easier than individually wrapped crap.

I coated these with my standard pork dry-rub, and not to bog us down in details (I’m assuming that if you care enough to actually read this you know how to smoke ribs already), smoked them with the silver skin on and peeled it as soon as I took them out. Count on a longer smoking time than baby-back or St. Louis Style ribs.


From that ^^^

To this:


I like these! They’re very impressive to plate, especially if you’re located in the dirty dirty south like we are. People want to order a whole rack of ribs with a couple of sides. I plated these on rectangular trays with parchment paper underneath with the sides just set on there with them. In reality, You would be ahead to slice them into individual ribs after they’re cold and serve about 4 to an order. That does get tricky with the bottom section, which you can see at the last photo in this series.

Depending on whether you’re serving these straight out of the smoker or reheating them, you could do them a couple of different ways. We did find that some people didn’t realize they should most definitely eat the meat from that little bottom cut. We found this to be the most delectable little bites on these bad boys.


So, overall, we liked these, especially for the price. I mean, actually we got these for the price of free this time, so you can’t beat it. Everyone who ordered them ate them down to dry bones, but stopped short of cracking said bones and sucking the marrow out. Cause, dang, we’re in public here. We might be hillbillies, but we do have some manners.


So, in short, save yourself a little food cost if you’re in an area where you’re going to have to explain to people the difference in types of ribs. They don’t care. They’ll be happy to get more meat for their money. If the people who make up your customer base consider themselves foodies, spring for the more expensive baby-backs. These won’t fool them. On the other hand, if you’re a great sales-person, you can convince them that they want these more than the baby-backs. Make that money, y’all.

We Like to Party! (Tray)

‘Tis the season for party trays! Here are the options that we have for party trays this year - buy one for an office party, or a Christmas party, or even just for yourself! Each tray includes our smoked summer sausage, ham, turkey, and an assortment of our smoked cheeses. For an extra fee, we can even provide crackers.

Small Tray $31.50

Feeds 8-10 for an appetizer or snack

1/4 lb. summer sausage

1 lb. mixed cheese

1 lb. ham

1 lb. turkey

Medium Tray $44.50

Feeds about 12 for an appetizer or snack

1/4 summer sausage

1 1/4 lb. mixed cheese

1 1/4 lb. turkey

1 1/4 lb. ham

Large Tray $63

Feeds 25 or more people for an appetizer or snack

1/2 summer sausage

2 lb. mixed cheese

2 lb. ham

2 lb. turkey

Giant Tray $94.50

Feeds 50 plus people

1/2 summer sausage

1 venison sausage

2 1/2 lb. mixed cheese

2 1/2 lb. ham

2 1/2 lb. turkey

We hope you’ll place your order soon!

December Catering

It’s time for Christmas parties. Shockingly (that’s sarcasm btw), many people don’t plan their office/company/family Christmas parties until after December 1st. Consequently, their choices of date, venue, and menu gets a little limited. Below are the dates and times we are still available for catering or Christmas parties in December 2018.

Sunday, December 9 2-5 pm

Thursday, December 13 2-8pm

Saturday, December 15 until 5pm

Thursday, December 20 all day

If you’ve planned a weekend away on the Buffalo River this holiday season, we’ll be glad to fix you up with in-house parties or pick-up catering. We can customize your menu to fit your tastes and your group size. We do anything from simple cheese and cracker appetizers to locally grown ribeye steak. We absolutely love doing home-style southern cooking for the holidays. And since our specialty is BBQ, that’s a very easy meal to get together for you. Just give us a call at 870-439-2900 or shoot us an email from the contact page on this site to book your party.

If you need more guidance than that, here are the menus for some past and upcoming parties we’ve done.

BBQ Brisket, Baked Beans, White Potato Salad, and Rolls for 40 people, (I just booked this yesterday, so I know off the top of my head it was $8.05 per person, they’re picking it up and serving it themselves)

Beef Tenderloin Smoked Filet, Baked Potatoes, Size Salad, Baguette (Use this one if you want simple, delicious, and elegant. I think it'll run about $12 per person if you pick it up, $15-18 if we serve it here)

Pick 2, in-house, family style dinner: Brisket and chicken quarters, rolls, coleslaw, baked beans ($12.99 per person, and these guys reserved the whole restaurant for a Friday from 3-5pm)

Don’t forget, if there is one of the specials that we run that you absolutely love, we can cater that also! Our Cuban sandwiches, gumbo, and cheesy ham chowder have all sold well lately.

Whatever kind of celebration you’re having this December, we can help you with it! Call us, text us, message us, send us a smoke signal. We’re here to help!