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Pasadena’s Beloved Barbecue Restaurant Closes on July 20 After 17 Years in Business

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The family-owned Big Mama’s Rib Shack lost its lease

Big Mama’s Rib Shack
Big Mama’s Rib Shack
Big Mama’s Rib Shack website

One of Pasadena’s longest running Southern food spots will close on July 20. The 17-year-old Big Mama’s Rib Shack recently lost its lease, leaving the owners without a space to keep slinging some of the area’s best barbecue. The McWhorter’s are no stranger to restaurants, having owned and operated restaurants throughout Pasadena since 1970.

Big Mama’s is slightly north of Washington Boulevard on Lake Avenue, and maintains a reputation for slow smoking cuts of meat including spare ribs, pulled pork, links, along with blackened fish, fried chicken, jambalaya, and hush puppies. Big Mama’s signature barbecue sauce recipe came all the way from Chattanooga, Tennessee decades ago.

According to Sierra Madre Weekly, owners Darron and Dargetta McWhorter are searching for a new space to continue the catering business. Prior to starting Big Mama’s, their parents, Dargin and Anita McWhorter, opened Emma Sue’s Fish and BBQ on Fair Oaks in Altadena in 1970. In the early 1980s, the family opened Southern food restaurant on Colorado between Raymond and Fair Oaks Avenue, before Old Town’s present iteration of modern shops and restaurants. The name Big Mama’s hails from Dargin McWhorter’s mother, Emma Sue Miller McWhorter.

Pasadena’s barbecue game still has some significant players, with Bonnie B’s Smokin and Rodney’s Ribs food truck in Altadena.

Big Mama’s Rib Shack. 1453 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena, CA