Choosing a Barbeque Restaurant

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.

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11 Comments

  1. on July 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    *sigh* I miss Where The Ribs Are. I will defrost the last rack of ribs I have in the freezer in remembrance of their closing last year.

  2. on July 23, 2007 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    :cackle: So, so true.

  3. kat
    on July 23, 2007 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Amen.

  4. on July 24, 2007 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post! Having lived in the south for just over a year, I have not been to a real barbeque place yet, despite them being plentiful in the area. I’ve just been trying to figure out where to go. Your post will help me decide :)

  5. Chris
    on July 24, 2007 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    “Meat squeezins” — never again will I be able to eat green beans with bacon without this term coming to mind.

    Come to think of it, since we already have spray cheeze in a can wouldn’t a product named “Meat SqueeZins” help flavor your vegetable dishes at home?

  6. on July 24, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Tiffany, good luck! Though if you end up at a stinker restaurant, it’s totally not my fault.

    Chris, ew.

  7. on July 24, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    You could just use bacon salt! (see baconsalt.com). It’s not quite as gross as the idea of MeatSqueeZins though. Still not overly appetizing to me.

  8. katre
    on July 26, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I still have fond memories of Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in Atlanta. It really was a shack. I’m pretty sure Fat Matt cooked in a sawn-open metal drum. The parking lot was just a big field of gravel. And damn, the food was good.

  9. on September 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    The sign for a BBQ joint should ideally read “Condemned.”

  10. Kristin
    on August 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    you are just a stand up comic in the making, aren’t you?
    what you say is true…all of it. bar-b-q is a religion in the south…just like sweet tea…and football.

  11. on August 30, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    You summed it up perfectly and incidentally made me miss Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, AL. (I have heard it isn’t as good as it used to be though.)

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  1. [...] restaurant in a gas station. I didn’t include “housed in a gas station” in my rundown of how to choose a barbeque restaurant, but I should have: two of the best barbeque places I’ve eaten at were in gas stations. We [...]