Those of you who are from the southern part of the US or have visited here have probably tried to choose a barbeque restaurant. It can be a daunting task, especially when you consider how many varieties of barbeque there are and locals’ near-religious fervor about which variety is best and which restaurant is supreme. If you have a local twisting your arm and dragging you to a restaurant, it’s best to go along. Nod and smile when they tell you how wonderful the restaurant is. Keep quiet if you disagree with them after eating there.
But what if you don’t have a local guiding you? In that case, you’ll have to choose a restaurant by its exterior. Lucky for you that there are several indicators of a good restaurant.
Let’s start with the sign. What style is it in? If the sign has the restaurant’s name painted above a Coca-Cola or Pepsi logo, you’re in luck. If the sign is faded or has letters outlined with wan neon, that’s good as well. Be cautious of modern shiny signs.
Does the sign include an illustration or mascot? Drawings of plates of food or ribs are okay, though not great. Pig mascots are good; smiling anthropomorphic pigs are even better. Is the pig surrounded by flames? If so, it should look happy about the situation. Best of all is an anthropomorphic pig eating ribs. Such a sign says, “Our food is so good that pigs will commit cannibalism to enjoy it.”
Look at the building. It should be run-down. If it looks like it’s moments away from being torched by angry health inspectors, you’ve probably chosen well.
Roll down your window. A good barbeque place will smell of cooking meat from a block away. Would your vegetarian friends take one breath and fall over dead?
How busy is it? A run-down shack with a hundred cars parked around it, many of which are pickup trucks, is likely a local favorite. Is the line out the door? If the restaurant has gotten a write-up in some magazine, you may be fooled by the presence of tourist cars. To guard against that, look for cop cars. County cops know where the best restaurants are.
Finally, before you commit, go in and look at the restaurant. A menu with few choices is ideal. If they have a lot of items on their menu, they’d better be catfish and chicken and perhaps meatloaf. Vegetables had better include bacon or other meat squeezins.
None of these guarantee your choice of restaurant, but in the absence of other information, they’re good indicators.