By Brian Bateman
Big Al’s Smokehouse has served brisket, chicken, sausage and plenty of other Texas barbecue to thousands of hungry Dallasites for more than 40 years.
Clearly, the Inwood Road-based shop has made a name in the Dallas community to stick around since 1973, but when the Dallas Maccabi Games came calling, the restaurant had to change its tune.
Big Al’s, traditionally a nonkosher smokehouse, has become a kosher enterprise this week as the caterer for the Games, the second such time Big Al’s has done so.
“This is his way to help the community,” said Lauran Plaskoff-Weiner, part of the fourth generation of the family-owned business. “He wanted to do this again. Our task is to feed these athletes helpful, delicious, kosher meals.”
Big Al’s catered in 2005 during Dallas’ inaugural hosting of the Games.
Dallas Kosher, the local kosher certification group, has been in charge of transforming Big Al’s.
“We have spent many, many hours in meetings and consultation for the Games,” Executive Director Miranda Winer said. “We’re very pleased to be able to (certify food) and give guests a place to consume kosher food.”
When Big Al’s first catered in 2005, there were two dietary requirements: kosher food, and a vegetarian option.
But today’s varied diets mean many more options for the athletes, including gluten-free food.
Every meal, Plaskoff-Weiner said, will be gluten-free or have a gluten-free alternative.
“It means extra lines and special meals.”
Big Al’s has taken a few lessons learned from the previous experience for this year.
“We have a pit that we use; it’s a 1,000-pound barbecue pit,” Plaskoff-Weiner said. “We had to remove all the racks and the rotation in the rotisseries. Last time (for Maccabi), we heated over coals.”
That process left a giant reminder that lasted several years in the parking lot: melted asphalt.
“We had to replace all the metal,” she said.
This time, they’ve bought new racks.
The process doesn’t end there. Big Al’s had to rework its supply chain to accommodate the Games.
Big Al’s usual supplier is a Fort Worth-based kosher-certified meat company, but the logistics, including the larger quantity of food required, made Big Al’s look for a new group.
It took them six months, but eventually the supplier turned out to be in their own backyard: A.D. Rosenblatt.
“It turns out there was a local kosher meat supplier here, and the COO just happened to be the father of one of my good friends,” Plaskoff-Weiner said.
Big Al’s will serve 1,300 people twice a day for four days. The menu includes fajitas, hamburgers/hot dogs cooked on-site at a nightly outing — and barbecue, of course.
“More than half of us (who worked in 2005) are still working here,” Plaskoff-Weiner said. “We’re really looking forward to giving them a taste of Texas.”