Big Ed’s is one of the historical institutions of Oak Ridge, TN. I’m not sure when exactly Big Ed’s opened it’s doors, but it’s definitely the pizza place that’s been around longest in Oak Ridge, since when I lived there I knew several people that had been swearing by Big Ed’s pizza for at least 3 generations.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Big Ed’s. The pizza is one of them, being a contender for the best pizza in Oak Ridge (however, as one coworker of mine would say, that’s “damning with faint praise”, the rest of the pizza in town is pretty marginal). The other draws are the gritty ambiance (shown here, just the right amount of “dank”, and a bunch of TV, sports, and military banners that have been hanging probably at least as long as I’ve been alive). The friendly service. The catering to the little kids watching them make pizzas while hoping for a spare piece of pepperoni to get hurled to them. The very cheap beer. The decades of multilingual intercontinental graffiti in the men’s room.
In other words, Big Ed’s is the epitome of a “Pizza Joint”.
Ed “Big Ed” Neusel ran the joint when I lived here, and he was definitely a personality that was loved by the town, and much of the love of Big Ed’s pizza comes from people’s fond memories of Ed (indeed, I think half the people that ever held jobs as teenagers in Oak Ridge worked for Big Ed). Big Ed died in 1998, but the family still runs the place.
I’ll be honest and say that this isn’t my favorite pizza. They try hard, and get a lot right: the sauce is nicely spiced, the crust is good (if a bit thin for my tastes), and the overall pizza is nicely cooked and toasted. It’s actually pretty good pizza overall.
However, it’s a solid contender for the greasiest pizza I’ve ever had, especially if you get pepperoni. Sopping the grease off with an extra napkin is apparently part of the Big Ed’s tradition.
All-in-all, there’s something I still like about a trip to Big Ed’s. I’ll never claim that it’s the best pizza, but I do like to go to Big Ed’s every time I’m in town.
(And, I finally figured out what made the ambiance different from my visits in ’93-’95: Big Ed’s is now non smoking, so the ever-present smoke haze is now gone)
Big Ed’s Pizza
101 Broadway Ave (a.k.a. “Jackson Square”)
Oak Ridge, TN