In 2017, Big’s Chicken opened on NE Glisan, serving a style of barbecue chicken difficult to find in Portland: dry rubbed, marinated in fresno hot sauce, smoked over applewood, and then brushed with an Alabama-style white sauce. The city got its first fix at Laurelhurst Market, and when the restaurant opened, it became an instant hit. That’s what made its sudden closure, the result of a fire, so tragic.
Now, it’s back on NE Glisan, serving its famous chicken once again. The new Portland location of Big’s Chicken swung open doors October 25, serving the dish that made it famous: Alabama-style barbecue birds.
But a lot has changed since the original Glisan days. Since the restaurant reopened in Beaverton last year, Big’s has grown; now, chicken is available grilled or fried, served with crispy-fried jojos and dirty rice. “At the original Big’s, it was all grilled chicken,” owner Ben Bettinger says. “Now we offer fried chicken, and you get the same process: dry-rubbed, marinated, smoked, and then either it’s grilled or it’s dredged in buttermilk and flour.”
Beyond birds, the restaurant’s dirty rice comes with either house chicken sausage or house cauliflower chorizo. The jojos are heavily seasoned, and there are even fried mac and cheese bites that have developed their own cult following. Plus, Big’s is boozier now, with two draft cocktails, beer, and wine.
The new restaurant retains the old school charm of its other locations, with reclaimed wood from high school bleachers and old Oregon memorabilia picked up at garage sales and thrift stores; “Think American Pickers,” Bettinger says. “The feel we want is that it’s lived in. When you walk in, I want it to feel like you’ve been there forever.”
Big’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at 4606 NE Glisan Street. Happy hour will begin next week, from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and all day Monday.