Situated in a rustic building that dates back to 1865, Big Dog’s Smokehouse BBQ looks just like a barbecue joint should. Owned by Chris and Cheryl Faulkner, the restaurant is crammed full of vintage signs and memorabilia, hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. All of the couple’s five children have pitched in at one time or another to make the eatery a favorite destination for the surrounding area.
“We are a kind of crossroads here for Noblesville, Carmel, Kokomo and Tipton,” Cheryl Faulkner says. “Lots of business comes from White River Campground just down the road. People like to come in for a meal after sledding. We got the idea for the restaurant because one day after church my husband said, ‘We need a barbecue place here.’ We are now in our tenth year.”
Chris’s interest in barbecue dates back several years and is actually intertwined with his career as a football player. Although he’s originally from the local area and became known as “Big Dog” when he attended Hamilton Heights schools, his family had a vacation home in Florida. He enrolled at the University of Florida and played football for the Gators. Through friendships with his teammates and their families, he was introduced to the barbecue culture so popular in the south.
After college he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and spent six years in the National Football League, playing for the Rams, Chargers and Buccaneers. While he was in Dallas he learned to cook beef brisket, and later on while playing in California, he met Cheryl.
“I was a Rams cheerleader and we weren’t allowed to date the football players,” she says. “So after three months we got married. Right after we were married, we had the opportunity to be on the ‘Newlywed Game’ television show. The emcee, Bob Eubanks, told us that if we hammed it up, he’d ask us back. We ended up winning. Chris always wanted a big family and he has roots here. After the NFL, we moved back to raise our family. We have lived here 33 years now and our children are aged 35 to 25. Our youngest, Ciara, was adopted from Russia.”
The restaurant’s specialty is the beef brisket Chris learned to make while playing for the Cowboys, along with their baby back ribs. Depending on whether it’s a sandwich or a platter, and the number of sides chosen, the brisket ranges in price from $7.99 to $14.99. The baby back ribs range from $16.49 to $17.99. Sides include traditional barbecue fare such as mac and cheese, smokehouse baked beans, green beans, potato salad, coleslaw and corn bread.
Other big sellers are the pulled pork, smoked sausage and chicken on the bone, which can range from a fourth of a chicken all the way to the whole bird. Specialty sandwiches created by the couple’s son Conner are also extremely popular. The Triple Dog Dare is a three-meat sandwich consisting of brisket, sausage and pork for $7.49. The Southern Comfort, priced at $8.99, is a pork sandwich topped with coleslaw, french fries and ranch dressing. Conner’s BBQ Nachos, at $10.99, are a big crowd pleaser.
There are also several dessert options to choose from, such as S’mores at the Table for $5.99, a $3.99 Root Beer Float, and the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake for $2.99.
“I love working together with the family and we are sort of a tag team,” Faulkner says. “Ciara does the website and accounting, and made the menu design a reality. I’ve got the creative ideas and she makes it happen. Conner learned to barbecue from his dad and he comes up with great menu ideas. We try them out as specials and people start asking for them.”
Faulkner adds that she and Ciara work together for catered events like weddings, graduations, open houses and birthday parties.
“Barbecue is such a comfort food and a great to-go option,” she says. “Now that my kids are grown it is a blessing and an honor to serve the community. The community has been outstanding in the love and support they have shown us.”
Current hours for COVID-safe indoor seating are Tue. through Thu. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closing time is dependent on weather during winter months. As the weather gets warmer and daylight savings time begins, hours of operation will lengthen, and patio seating, which is dog friendly, will open up. DoorDash delivery is also available.
Big Dog’s Smokehouse BBQ is located at 29 East Jackson Street in Cicero. For more info, visit BDSmokeHouse.com or call 317-800-5430. For catering, call 765-860-0852 or 765-480-6274.