Sisters and pioneering flight instructors Katherine and Marjorie Stinson established San Antonio’s Stinson Field with their family in 1916. In 1918, it became the city’s civil airport. Today, a new, grey-toned mural on the side of an old flight school building commemorates that anniversary. Happy 100, Stinson!
Inside the newly renovated main building of the still-active airfield, a colorful mural further celebrating the history of flight in San Antonio circles the light-filled dining room of The Big Bib BBQ. Outside, a squadron’s worth of private planes sits tethered to the tarmac. If you’re lucky, and there during the day, a Cessna Skyhawk, Piper Warrior or Kerrville-built Mooney M20 might take off or land, adding spice to lunch — not that BB isn’t adequately fueled up in that department; there are four lusty sauces for your consideration, and (almost) each has its place in the pantheon of plates.
Big Bib Stinson is the younger sibling of the original outlet on Lanark Drive off Austin Highway, and big bro still smokes all of the meat served here. The selection is not exactly hand-me-down, but it is a little smaller than the original — no catfish (no loss), no cobbler (a real shame), fewer combos. Yet if Stinson loses anything at all in translation, it more than makes up for it in atmosphere — and in the lack of lines.
Up to you whether you choose the regular brisket by the plate or pound or the lean for a little more scratch; my standard, not all that fatty serving sported an encouraging smoke ring, satisfying, slow-smoked flavor and a nice hint of peppery rub, especially in the leaner, barkier parts. Your pick, too, regarding the sauces. For my money I’d stay with the tangy Bib sauce or the deeper, more intense hot & spicy. The jalapeño version of the house sausage yields Pop Rocks-bursts of heat in a mostly-mild matrix. Though not one of the greats, it nevertheless gets the job done — and it doesn’t really need sauce at all. With its sweetness, however, the honey barbecue does play well against the chile heat.
The baby backs are also worth your attention. They’re of the no-nonsense school that’s got no truck with slathery glazes: just the smoke, m’am — and a little pepper. Rib tips, cross-cut bits of the same rack, are kinda fun to eat, but don’t offer anything especially different. Honey barbecue sauce is again my choice for both; the very sweet and mustardy tangy gold is just a tad too pushy. (Of the four, it’s the one I wouldn’t use on anything, for that matter.) The straightforward but satisfying pulled pork also benefits from just a squirt of honey barbecue. Sandwich versions of most everything are available. Wings are a thing on Wednesdays. Breakfast is now also served.
As for the sides, gotta say that I’m a sucker for plain ol’ collard greens with a hint of pork and good pot licker — especially when, as here, they’re not cooked to within an inch of their lives. The creamy potato salad is spiked with pimento and is another winner. Forewarned that the sugar-crusted sweet potato casserole is indeed sweet, you’re allowed to like it regardless — I did. But for me, the chili version of the pinto beans, enlivened with a little ground beef, placed too much hope in what tasted like chili powder to make them truly compelling. Sometimes the simplest dishes are the hardest landings to stick.