Matt Gilley has lived in our local area most of his life. His family owns land in Ashdown, and he, his daughter and fiancé bought a local home that connects to his family’s land. “My daughter can walk across the land to visit her grandparents’ house at any time. It’s been the best purchase I’ve made in my whole life,” said Gilley. Big Gilley, a name that was given to him when he was younger, and has followed him throughout his life, opened up Big Gilley’s Smokehouse in Ashdown about three years ago. The community support has been in no short supply.
“I have regulars who come everyday. I have people who drive from Nashville, AR., Genoa, Faulk, and Texarkana, who come just to eat my BBQ,” said Gilley with a big smile. Several years ago, while living and operating a welding business in Ft. Worth, Gilley started cooking meats out of his home. “Back then we had the NextDoor App, and I was able to sell plates from outside of my door. People would line the block just to get some of my BBQ. It was the best feeling in the world,” said Gilley. Unfortunately, per state code, he was shut down, but the idea of cooking and making down-home feel good food never left his system. Four years ago, as he went through many changes in his life, Matt Gilley decided to take an entire year off. “I knew I needed time to myself. To heal, to figure out my life, and to spend time cooking and perfecting my recipes. It was the best decision I ever made for myself and my daughter,” said Gilley.
Located in the heart of Ashdown, Big Gilley’s Smokehouse has become known for their amazing meats, their one of a kind sauce, and their specialty menu that is changed and added to almost daily. “I have the best employees in the world, one is my mother, and others have become my family. I have nothing but amazing things to say about the people who work for me. My mother makes our specialty potato salad. The recipe for it has been passed down through our family for over 100 years. Only she and I know the recipe now. She also makes all of our desserts. I spend my off days cooking meats between 12-16 hours at a time, making sure they are perfect. We also try to shop locally for all our supplies, to help keep other businesses going, and to show our support to the local community,” said Gilley.
Big Gilley may serve some of the best BBQ in our area, but he does so with the biggest heart. “We love this community. I don’t want anyone who comes here to think they are getting a small plate for the price. We make sure that each plate that we serve has enough food to fill you up, with the opportunity to take some home for later. I’m a big guy. I make sure every plate is big enough to fill my stomach, and I want everyone who comes in here to feel the same way,” said Gilley. While many businesses had their struggle during the pandemic, Big Gilley’s Smokehouse saw an increase in customers up to 33%. “Since the pandemic, our business has been crazy. People were searching for somewhere to go, and food to eat that would feel good, and we definitely offer that experience. We have been very blessed to see our business continue to grow over the last year since the pandemic and it hasn’t slowed down since,” said Gilley.
Big Gilley’s Smokehouse is open Wednesday-Saturday. “We’re here guys! We don’t do this for ourselves. We want to feed our community and show them what real BBQ is! This is a family run business and one day, if my daughter decides to take over, it will be hers. That’s what this whole business is about. I want to make sure that when you sit down with your entire family to eat our food, every single person at that table walks away with a smile,” said Gilley.
Big Gilley’s Smokehouse is located at 211 NW Front Street Ashdown, AR 71822, and is open Wednesday- Friday 11AM-2PM, 4-8PM, and Saturday 11AM-5PM. To check out Big Gilley’s Specials visit his Facebook page!