Big Frank's is owned by the people who own Frankie's Hot Dogs, an institution in the area since the 1930s. It's a faux log cabin building, with twin wooden pigs at the entry that had me thinking Bugaboo Creek when I pulled into the parking lot. Inside are more wooden pigs and the typical barbecue theme signs. I was pleased to find that it's a counter service joint, with plenty of large booths to sit comfortably. You order at one counter and after your food is cooked to order, you pick it up at another counter. There's a TV in the counter area and another in the dining area, both tuned to the Food Network while I was there.
The menu is pretty versatile for a place like this-- they offer St Louis or baby back ribs, the other usual barbecue fare, plus salads with and without meat, soups, fried clams, Cajun shrimp, burgers and hot dogs. Rare for this type of place, you can get beer and wine.
My 4-rib St Louis rib platter arrived piping hot, connected at the chine, with a charred finish from grilling and covered with a modest amount of sauce. The ribs were meaty, hot, juicy, pink from real pit smoking, and very (possibly too) crisp on the outside from grilling. Although there wasn't an overly smoky flavor or spiciness to the crust, these ribs had a good flavor. The sauce was Cattleman's, which startled me at first, but it worked somehow when cooked into the ribs. The cole slaw was a small portion, bland and with too much mayonnaise. The steak fries were thick, crisp and a huge portion. There was also a mini cornbread loaf that was served hot but unimpressive.
I'd give their burgers and dogs a try too; they looked good at neighboring tables. I like their efficiency, their ability to serve the food hot and the overall value. I even give them credit for having the balls to disclose that they use Cattleman's sauce, which turned out to be better than the ketchupy "home made" concoctions you find at too many places.
Update: On a return visit a few months later, I ordered a 4-rib combo, this time with onion rings and cole slaw. The ribs were again smoked first, grilled and basted before serving. Nice crust outside, tender and juicy inside. This time, the ribs were thinner and seemed to derive more of their flavor from the sauce, with a faint lighter fluid taste. Not bad, but not as impressive as last time. Slaw was decent, but the onion rings were like Burger King's and the mini cornbread loaf was sub par.
The bottom line: A pretty good meal (very good if you like wet, basted-and-grilled ribs), in a no-nonsense fast food setting. Not the very best barbecue in Waterbury but good enough and easily the fastest.