Welcome Diner

Welcome Diner’s Big Jim.

The bigger is better posture took center stage last week with our fascination over the supermoon, which got me thinking about today’s superfoods, though I’m not talking kale and kohlrabi.   

Big means business at eateries across Southern Arizona. In fact, restaurateurs are so big on big that it’s literally become part of the name of some of their dishes.

Consider the Big Jim, a sandwich inspired by the lyrics of a song of the same name by the band Ween that asks, “What’s the biggest thing you ever done did see?”

As a dedicated Ween fan, Michael Babcock responded in turn with the Big Jim, a behemoth of a bite that stacks a southern fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese, and bacon, ladled with a pork sausage country gravy, between two fluffy halves of a house-made buttermilk biscuit.

“This is your basic big boy sandwich, with a high caloric intake, based on a goofy song by a bizarre psychedelic rock band,” said Babcock, owner and chef at Welcome Diner, 902 E. Broadway Boulevard.

This thing stands tall, and Babcock says that his guests have adopted different strategies for taking it down.

He’s seen more conservative customers take the safe route with a knife and fork, while others confidently wrap their hands around it and go in face first.

“We have some advice here for that particular group,” said Babcock. “Just pick it up and don’t let go.” 

By the way, I tried that on my most recent visit to Welcome Diner. The victory was sweet, thank you very much. 

Every one of Babcock’s dishes tells a story, and he tells me that his Big Jim is “a celebration of indulgence and deliciousness in tandem, designed to let people spoil themselves.”

While the Big Jim is a new addition to Tucson’s west side food scene, the Big Mo has been satisfying big pizza cravings on the east side for years.

A 20-inch powerhouse of a pie, the Big Mo was named for local pizza pioneer Dino Chonis’ daughter Morgan when it landed on the menu 15 years ago at Tino’s Pizza, 6610 E. Tanque Verde Road.

“Morgan was a tiny girl with a lot of moxie who definitely packed a big punch in those early years,” recalled Chonis. “We always got a lot of laughs when people learned that such a big pizza was named after her.”

Chonis calls the Big Mo “a true party pizza” in that it’s cut into squares instead of slices, rendering 16 pieces instead of the more conventional eight.

“It’s become the perfect solution for groups that are stuck between ordering a large and a small pizza or two mediums,” he said. 

Preparing the Big Mo also requires some big muscle. Every pizza at Tino’s is hand-tossed, and getting 20 inches out of a ball of dough calls on the best biceps in the business.  

“I’ll have to admit that it looks pretty cool when that dough goes gliding through the air,” said Chonis. “That kind of spinning is not for the timid.”

Speaking from personal experience, my first Big Mo arrived at the table with a slow and steady hover, like a UFO with anchovies, and I didn’t know whether to roll up my sleeves or run for cover. Thankfully I chose the former, and the rest is pizza history.

Other bigs that have caught my eye around town include the Big Kahuna at Mama’s Hawaiian Bar-b-cue, the Big Daddy Kane at Diablo Burger, and the iconic Big Pat’s Martini at Pastiche.

You can go big or go home. Just don’t deprive yourself of that country gravy. 


Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.