For some reason, it seems I've been chowing on the BBQ lately. I know I take food cravings in cycles, as I recently went to Blue Coast Burrito three days in a row. The tacos are really good, but three consecutive days? Maybe we are creatures of habit.
I while I do like BBQ, admittedly I am not a connoisseur of all things BBQ. Just the term "BBQ" has a vague definition, making reaching a pinnacle of experience appear unattainable. What is BBQ exactly? It depends on who I ask. It could be any number of smoked portions of a critter, or some food item(s) cooked on a grill, or simply a meat drowning in a BBQ sauce. There's that elusive term again, BBQ. Presuming we could even narrow down that BBQ is a cooking methodology that employs a slow, low heat source and smoke from a type of wood, there's then a whole debate on what makes a good sauce. Sweet? Spicy? Slippery thin? Molasses Thick?
Fortunately, none of this matters to me. Put the cooked critter on a plate and give me a fork already. Sweet, savory, vinegar-based, molasses based, I'll take it all. About the only BBQ that I will skip uses a mustard based sauce. I've actually seen my husband get an indescribable expression on his face and excuse himself from the table to rid himself of bbq with mustard-based sauce. I don't quite have that strong an aversion to it, but why waste the calories and fat on something that's not to my liking? If it requires running an extra mile that day, I'm going to make it something truly tasty.
Anyway, I've had the good fortune of finding good BBQ in my path as of late. Searching for something local open on a Sunday, which in itself is a challenge, my husband and I found Woody's BBQ at the end of a strip mall in Elizabethton, Tennessee. I wouldn't expect a BBQ chain centered around Florida to have BBQ that Tennesseans find acceptable. When it comes down to it, people are pretty picky about their BBQ, we southerners most especially. So a BBQ joint that has a fairly full parking lot is as good an indicator as I could find that day. It was a good call too, as their sampler of pork, chicken and turkey were very good. The turkey was served as a section instead of pulled and in conjunction with some great chili cheese fries, made for a good lunch stop.
Another good BBQ experience I've enjoyed twice now at Famous Daves in Little Rock, AR. They are a chain out of Minnesota, and to this southerner's surprise, there IS good BBQ to come from north of Kentucky! (I have a short list of food rules and this breaks one of them, more on that later.) Their BBQ chicken is truly exceptional! Also seeing that they're based out of the North explains their sweet cornbread muffins, as any southern cook will tell you that cornbread isn't supposed to be sweet. I take issue with that, and I like it both ways; I say that doesn't make me un-southern but that I have a more flexible palette! I have it on good word (my mom) that their bread pudding is also fantastic, but both times I've been I filled up on too much BBQ chicken to give it a try. There's always next time, and with chicken that good, there will definitely be a next time.
So regardless of what it's called, the deliciously cooked meats and their accompaniments I consumed at two "BBQ" restaurants recently were worth the calories. I do like my BBQ, in most any form. I think that qualifies me as southern enough.