When USA Today set out to profile the 51 best pizza restaurants in America (one for each state and the District of Columbia), there was one obvious choice for Tennessee: Big Ed’s Pizza. Located right here in Oak Ridge, Big Ed’s has become a can’t-miss destination for anyone traveling to the Secret City. To help you plan your next visit, we have put together a guide to everything you need to know about Big Ed’s Pizza in Oak Ridge.
History of Big Ed’s Pizza
Edward “Big Ed” Neusel and his wife Ginger opened the original Big Ed’s Pizza in Huntsville, AL in 1961. When Huntsville’s economy began to spiral in the late ‘60s, Ed and Ginger sold their restaurant to one of their employees and relocated to the Secret City for a fresh start.
In 1970, the Neusels purchased the old Service Drug Store in Oak Ridge and converted it into a new Big Ed’s location. The drug store’s World War II-era booths still remain a part of the restaurant, while the soda fountain was replaced with an open kitchen and the druggist area was transformed into a walk-in cooler.
Big Ed’s Pizza quickly developed a devoted following for its mouthwatering pies, which are made with premium ingredients and the Neusel’s original recipe dough and sauce. As a former marine, Big Ed brought a pragmatic, no-frills philosophy to his restaurant. All of the pizzas at Big Ed’s are hand-tossed, cut with scissors, and served on paper plates with military-like efficiency.
When Ed passed away in 1998, his son David took over the pizzeria and continued the traditions that made the restaurant an institution in East Tennessee.
Big Ed’s Pizza Today
Although David is no longer with us, Big Ed’s Pizza remains a family-run business helmed by David’s wife, Melissa, and General Manager John Harris.
In an interview with local news station WVLT, John Harris explained that things haven’t changed much in the nearly 50 years Big Ed’s has been in operation. “We’ve kept the same recipe ever since 1970. We still use Big Ed’s recipe for our dough. We still use his sauce recipe. We still get the cheese from the same company, Sartori, in Wisconsin. We get it shipped directly down here.”
Visitors to Big Ed’s Pizza in Oak Ridge will find that the parlor has a charmingly retro feel, complete with checkered tablecloths and a jukebox. The walls of the restaurant are lined with a diverse collection of items, including autographed sports memorabilia, trophies, awards, and souvenirs from all around the world. After your meal, be sure to pick up one of the pizzeria’s famous T-shirts, which feature an iconic caricature of Big Ed chewing on a toothpick.
Big Ed’s Pizza Menu
Big Ed’s menu focuses exclusively on pizza. Guests can either build their own pie or choose from one of the restaurant’s signature pizza creations:
- BBQ Chicken: smoked chicken, red onions, jalapenos, cilantro, BBQ sauce
- Big Ed’s Special: ham, sausage, mushroom, onion, green pepper
All of the pizzas at Big Ed’s can be ordered as a 10”, 12”, or 14” pie. Gluten-free dough is available for an additional charge. Big Ed’s also boasts a great selection of beer and soft drinks.
Big Ed’s Pizza Location & Hours
Big Ed’s Pizza in Oak Ridge is located at 101 Broadway Avenue in Historic Jackson Square. The restaurant’s hours are as follows:
- 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. (Monday – Thursday)
- 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. (Friday – Saturday)
- Closed on Sunday
More Great Restaurants in Oak Ridge
Looking for even more great places to eat in the Secret City? Check out our complete guide to dining in Oak Ridge!