By Kathleen Swift
Photos By Artistic Expressions Photography
Every morning before many of us are having our first sip of coffee, Carla Crawford and her daughter, Twyla Housh, are making the famous pies for Big R’s Bar-B-Q. They’ll have dozens of homemade rolls rising and the smoker going.
“I get up at 3 am every morning,” says Carla, “and we’re often at the restaurant by 5:30 am. We believe in serving excellent homemade food, and that means all of our crusts for our pies are made from scratch.”
At Big R’s, you will always find a variety of pies to choose from. Carla says the customer favorites are coconut and chocolate, but each pie is made with excellence in mind.
“We start with the crust, which is made with Crisco, flour, sugar and ice water,” explains Carla. “If you don’t have a good crust, you don’t have a good pie. We used to roll the crusts by hand, but since we make so many a day, we bought a press from a Canadian company. It is custom made for us. We put the balls of crust dough into it, and it presses them into the 10-inch-deep pie pans. Then we hand flute the crust edges and add fillings. If we are making a double crust pie, we add the top crust. It is a labor and time-intensive process.”
Carla and Twyla keep a book on how many pies they make each week and what kinds they make. Each morning, they match the tickets of the pies they sold with the pie book to figure out what they need to make each day. With over 70 varieties of pies in the book, they like to change up the offerings. All of the fruit pies are made with fresh fruit, including the gooseberries, which is Carla’s favorite.
“We make cherry, pecan, French coconut, chess pie and so many more,” says Carla. “I like to think up something new, or if someone wants a certain type of pie, they can order it and I can make it.”
Once the crusts are ready, the bases for the cream pies are made.
“We have a white base and a chocolate base,” says Carla. “We use one gallon of base for every five pies. The bases are made from flour, eggs, butter and vanilla. We put the bases in a jacket cooker, which can cook a number of pies at once. The cream pies get a whipped topping. I try to keep improving the pies each time I make them, and I’ve been making pies for at least 35 years.”
Big R’s is a family business, and Twyla has her children, Wyatt and Dawson, representing the restaurant in commercials. This precocious pair are all into Big R’s. Nine-year-old Dawson says her favorite pies are the blueberry cream and the Oreo. Big brother Wyatt seconds her Oreo choice.
Like everything about Big R’s, the commercials the kids make are genuine.
“We get to brainstorm what we want to say,” quips Dawson.
If asked about what makes Big R’s such a special restaurant, Dawson says it’s the meats and the pies. Wyatt is thoughtful, but says he thinks it is the customers that make Big R’s.
Twyla reminds the kids, “We couldn’t do all of this without Dad. We joke that Dad has a real job, but he’s our rock, and without him, we couldn’t do what we do here at Big R’s.
“One thing that’s important to our family is work ethic,” says Twyla. “We want to make sure our children and grandchildren understand that we do things right and do the right thing. We show up and give 100 percent, no matter what we’re doing.”
The love and support of each family member for the others and their commitment to excellence comes through in the homemade food they serve.
“You won’t get anything dumped out of a can here,” says Carla. “We make the potato salad, the pasta salad, the gravy, the rolls and onion rings by hand. We hickory smoke our meats and hand carve them. The chicken tenders are hand cut from whole breasts and dipped in flour, eggs and back into flour just like grandma used to do.”
Real food, homemade food, may be becoming a thing of the past, but you’ll find it at Big R’s. Oh, and by the way, I think I’ll have a big slice of pie, too. It’s some of the best around.