Big Mike’s BBQ to Open in Downtown Cary

Big Mike's BBQ, known for Eastern N.C. pork barbecue and Texas-style beef brisket, plans to open a location in downtown Cary.

In January 2011, Mike Markham took a leap of faith by quitting his job as a financial advisor and purchasing a food truck. He hasn’t looked back since then.

Ten years later, that dream — Big Mike’s BBQ — is flourishing. From humble beginnings as a red barn on wheels, the restaurant marks its anniversary with an expansion into downtown Cary on the horizon and another in Apex already complete.

“I was a backyard barbecue fanatic and just loved doing it for joy. I always dreamed of owning a restaurant one day,” Markham said. “I finally just realized I was never going to be happy unless I just pulled the trigger and dove in.”

Mike Markham, owner of Big Mike’s BBQ, hopes to take advantage of the recent growth in downtown Cary.

Markham recently signed a lease to move into a 5,000-square foot building at 150 E. Cedar St., less than a block from Bond Brothers Beer Company. He hopes to capitalize on the growth taking place downtown.

“We’re moving to downtown Cary, because I figured with the way downtown Cary is moving that somebody’s going to try to come in there,” Markham said. “If I let The Pit come in and do it in downtown Cary, I would kick myself for not taking advantage of the territory there and hold on to our spots. We’ve earned it and Cary downtown is just booming right now.”

The downtown restaurant is expected to be open next summer and follows in the footsteps of the Apex location, which moved into a much larger 4,500-square foot building at 2045 Creekside Landing Drive in December. The location, formerly known as Brew N Que, has been rebranded under the Big Mike’s BBQ name, and a full bourbon bar was added.

The expansions leave room for more growth for the Big Mike’s brand, Markham said. His current restaurants are best known for Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, Texas-style brisket, pork-topped mac ‘n’ cheese, smoked potato salad and other Southern sides. The popular eatery won an honorable mention in the 2021 Maggy Awards.

When the downtown Cary move is complete, the current location at 1222 N.W. Maynard Road will be replaced with a new taco concept that incorporates smoked meats into the menu.

Looking back at the path that got him here, Markham says the secret to making quality barbecue turned out to be pretty simple.

“The KISS method is mine: keep it simple, stupid,” Markham said. “I live by that. I’m like, ‘Don’t make it over complicated.’”

It took 200 attempts before Markham settled on the signature barbecue rub recipe that is a staple of his restaurants. While he is partial to Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, Markham says a truly good barbecue, wherever it comes from, shouldn’t rely on the sauce, but lets the flavor developed by wood and charcoal shine through.

That philosophy of keeping the meat simple led to inventive dishes that make for a unique menu. Along with more traditional items, Big Mike’s includes original dishes like BBQ egg rolls and Redneck Nachos, which tops tortilla chips with pork, baked beans, blue cheese slaw and barbecue sauce.

Markham says the best part of his job, and the part that he is most proud of, is the people he works with. After a 10 year journey and expansions on the horizon, he couldn’t imagine living out his dreams anywhere other than where he is, in western Wake County.

“Between Apex and Cary is going to be home for me for the rest of my life, probably,” Markham said. “Those are the kind of markets where I love the people and the way everything operates.”

1 Comment

  • Allan Brock says:

    Can’t have too many BBQ joints!!! I was born and raised in Memphis and have had my share of BBQ. Can’t get enough of it. Look forward to trying your BBQ on day……

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