REFUGIO – Serving people who are hungry comes naturally for Andrew Williams, a pastor and owner of Big Daddy’s BBQ and Soul Food in Refugio, and it’s a mission whether they can pay for the food or not.
From his food truck on East Commons Street, Williams stays busy serving barbecue to paying customers Tuesday through Saturday — although he is open on some Mondays, as well. However, in addition to the regular meals, Williams is also serving an average of at least 40 free meals for elderly residents each day.. That dedication to help those in need runs deep in Williams.
“We offer the free meals for the elderly, but if somebody comes by and says they are hungry and aren’t able to pay, we take care of them, too,” said Williams.
The day before Easter, Williams provided 42 plates of turkey and dressing for elderly local residents, “and they were gone in no time,” he said.
“We don’t do it for the glory of man, we do it for the glory of God,” Williams said. “I don’t take credit for providing these meals. The community has helped me to be able to do this. They have made donations and gotten behind these efforts. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Right after the coronavirus crisis swept the nation in March, Williams said business nearly came to a halt. He wondered what he would do with the extra food, and decided elderly residents in the community could benefit from the meals.
“Those of them that can pay do, and if they can’t pay, that’s OK,” Williams said. “We have some amazing people here in Refugio County, and a lot of them have made donations to help make sure we can keep feeding the elderly.”
Williams, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and only given a short time to live, is still going strong 26 years later. He said he knows what it is like to go through difficult times, and he wants to help people through them.
“We all struggle,” he said. “I struggle with things, and we’ve all been there. We are able to help others because we know that God will take care of us.”
Once Williams began offering free meals to the elderly, the community responded in a big way, he said.
“They really got behind it,” Williams said. “I usually sell about 40 to 50 plates a day, and there are often 40 to 50 plates that I give away. I need to be able to cook even more.”
Two big smokers are a testament to the meat that Williams cooks each day. He wakes up at 4 a.m. and is usually cooking by 4:30, he said.
He posts a message on the Refugio High School Friends Facebook page, and that is enough to get the word out about the availability of free meals to the elderly.
Williams has had his food truck in Refugio for about six months, and also serves as pastor of Center Union Missionary Baptist Church in Buda, located between San Antonio and Austin. Williams has also served as an associate pastor for churches in Woodsboro and Refugio. He and his wife, Dr. Alma Williams, live in Refugio. Alma is an administrator for the Ingleside Independent School District.
Williams credits his wife for being the reason he opened a restaurant in Refugio.
“I was going to go back to Aransas Pass (where he sold barbecue previously) but she told me she thought I should try to sell food here,” he said.
Local customers say they are glad he did.
Pete Perez bought a brisket plate on a recent day, and said it was his wife who first started coming to Big Daddy’s for the food.
“You can’t beat the brisket here,” Perez said. “It’s very good.”
Another loyal customer is Bobby Jones, who said he visits Big Daddy’s “almost every day.”
Jones said he knows good barbecue and that Williams has it.
“I love this barbecue,” Jones said. “He’s doing a very good job. I barbecue myself, and this is great barbecue. What I like is that he spends time with it. It’s old school. You can tell he takes his time with this barbecue and does it right. You can taste the extra time he spends making sure the meat is just right.
“He helps the elderly, too. He’s just doing a great job.”
Once the coronavirus crisis is over, Williams hopes to expand his restaurant. While a takeout counter and two picnic tables is perfect in a time of social distancing and government advisories to stay at home as much as possible, Williams said he has a different vision for the future.
“Right now we specialize in barbecue — brisket, sausage, chicken, ribs, pulled pork and then sometimes fish on Fridays,” Williams said.
“My goal is to get a little bigger place with a kitchen, bathrooms and 10 tables. This place is too small, and it gets too hot.”
While barbecue will still be an important part of the menu, an eventual expansion will enable Williams to focus more on soul food.
“I want to eventually serve soul food — steak, chicken-fried steak and chicken-fried chicken and fried chicken,” he said.
Williams is serving fried chicken on a limited basis from his food truck. On days when it is available, he cooks the chicken between 10 and 11 a.m. “so that it’s fresh when people come by at 11,” he said. “After noon, you can only get the chicken if you call in.
Chopped barbecue sandwiches served with chips and a drink are available most days, and sometimes the Big Daddy Spud — a stuffed baked potato — is also on the menu.
The meat plate sells for $9 and includes salad and a drink. Sometimes, dessert is also available.
Big Daddy’s normal hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The restaurant is occasionally open on Monday, depending on Williams schedule that week.
“We’re here for people and hope to stay that way,” Williams said. “Things are hard right now, but God provides, and we’ll do what we can for the community. They’ve done so much for us.
Jeff Osborne is the editor of the Refugio County Press.