First Look: Popular food truck Big Cheezy debuts its first brick-and-mortar restaurant near LSU

Trips to Tigerland are no longer required to get a taste of the gooey, pressed sandwiches from Big Cheezy. The beloved food truck’s first Baton Rouge brick-and-mortar location opens with full hours Tuesday, May 7, at the North Gates of LSU’s campus. 

The sandwich spot, that got its start as a Tigerland staple and is known for its packed melts and grilled cheeses, welcomed a crowd of hungry customers at its soft opening this past weekend. Big Cheezy owner Blaize Romancik says the sit-down restaurant, located in the former location of Soulshine Kitchen & Bar on West Chimes Street, has been in the works since October. 

And though Big Cheezy is moving to a physical restaurant, its two food trucks aren’t going anywhere. The Tigerland food truck will take a hiatus during the summer months while LSU is out of session. Romancik says the break will allow him and his team to focus on the new restaurant. Big Cheezy’s other food truck will remain available for special events and catering. 

Romancik was the first employee of New Orleans-born Big Cheezy when the brand moved operations to Baton Rouge. In 2019, he bought the business and has operated its food trucks since, growing a strong clientele of college students. 

“I’m 26, and I got started with Big Cheezy when I was about 20,” he says. “I was super happy with the food trucks. We make good money, it’s fun and we’re only open a few days a week. But, as I got older, I was like ‘Man, we should really try and take it to the next step and just go for it.’ … I really love the brand, and I think we can grow. My dream is to be on every SEC campus, and I think we can get there.” 

Romancik says the location’s proximity to LSU’s campus made the brick-and-mortar ideal. He has already applied for a liquor license, aiming to serve beers and seltzers just in time for football season in the hopes of making the restaurant a place that Tiger fans can stop at for a drink and a meal both pre- and post-game. 

File photo by Raegan Labat

“I wanted our first location to be around LSU,” he says. “I wanted to thank the students for treating us so well in Tigerland and have our first location here. … I like to say we have LSU in a chokehold with us over here and in Tigerland.” 

The new restaurant has a relaxed vibe with enough room to seat up to 56 patrons with indoor and outdoor tables. Inside, guests will see walls covered in cheese-yellow paint drips. Romancik commissioned two LSU students, Courtney Cook and Skyler Hale, to create a mural of Mike the Tiger devouring one of Big Cheezy’s signature sandwiches as another decor highlight. A few flat-screen TVs hang on walls to display menus, sports broadcasts and LSU highlights. 

“We like to keep it simple,” he says about the decor. “We’re more of a college eatery, so I expect this place to get kind of dinged up. I’m kind of an emotional guy, so I don’t want to be upset if blue Powerade spills on the walls. We treated it not like Tigerland, but an upgraded version.”

Big Cheezy commissioned two LSU students, Courtney Cook and Skyler Hale, to create a mural of Mike the Tiger devouring one of Big Cheezy’s signature sandwiches.

Big Cheezy will debut a few new menu items in addition to the food truck’s fan favorites. Additions include Romancik’s take on a classic patty melt and the BBQ Burnt Ends sandwich, made with hickory-smoked turkey burnt ends, barbecue sauce, and cheddar and pepper jack cheeses. Once operations get streamlined, the restaurant also plans to serve eggroll options stuffed with buffalo chicken or the brand’s signature macaroni and cheese, Romancik says.

“We wanted to do fried mac and cheese, but we wanted to infuse the egg roll aspect into it,” he says. “We do buffalo chicken egg rolls for private events, and they’re a really good seller, so I wanted to bring them here. … Something I’m really excited for is the patty melt. I love Whataburger, and this is a really cool, upgraded version of that.” 

Though Romancik has been operating Big Cheezy for years, he says opening the restaurant presented challenges—and expenses—he hadn’t encountered when starting up food trucks. He says much of the work and many of the dollars went into the building itself, along with some other upgrades, like sandwich-making equipment and a fountain soda machine.

“We could have bought two other food trucks with the amount of money we put in at this place,” Romancik says. “It makes me excited that people are excited.” 

Romancik is aware of the struggles other restaurants have faced on West Chimes Street, but he hopes his loyal customers and late-night hours will support the business year around. He also plans to host a block party with other West Chimes Street businesses this fall. 

“A lot of people told me, when we were signing a lease here, that it was awful,” he says. “That kind of fueled me inside. I was like, ‘A lot of people say Tigerland is awful.’…When I was a kid, this side of campus was the side of campus. … I think it takes a spark in one or two businesses to really make it pop over here.” 

Big Cheezy will be open Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.–midnight and Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.–3 a.m. The restaurant is at 144 W. Chimes St. Follow it on Instagram for updates.