Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Ending at Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q - Captain

The Big Ending at Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q - Captain

As Babe pulled into the parking lot of Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q, a mutual mood consumed the car. We realized that this was the end of our journey. It was a feeling similar to many moments of closure in one’s life: telling childhood friends goodbye after high school graduation, give your last goodbyes at a relative’s funeral, or that final glance after a breakup with that special someone. You know it is coming and you try not to think about it but without warning, it arrives. Yes, we were tired. Babe had passed 3000 miles on the ride up and it was our 19th restaurant. But we weren’t tired of each other, the barbecue, or the obligations of the trip. We made our last equipment check (digital camera, wallet, notepad, Flip video camera, pen, business cards) and made our way into our final barbecue bistro.

Since this was our last meal, we wanted to end it with those we cared about: our families and friends. I figured that my parents and siblings would show up in addition to a couple of straggling fraternity brothers, restless and bored from their on-campus Interim projects. Similar to the energy and spirit of this trip, the BBQ nation packed out the house. We had over 30 guests present on our behalf and when we walked in the door, they erupted. Cheers, hugs, and applause covered the room. It was a bittersweet moment: the love and laughter made us smile but it confirmed that this was it. It was our last meal.

We took our seats and glanced over the menu. Prior to this trip, Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q was my favorite BBQ joint in the world. After 17 days, I was ready to test it against the 18 other restaurants. The owner, Don McLemore, came over and introduced himself, insisting that we try everything on the menu with every sauce. But I was a Big Bob’s regular. I knew the pork and chicken plate was my choice. We placed our orders and socialized with our fans. Don hung around and gave us a little history (started in 1925 in his grandfather’s backyard and the recipes have remained the same ever since), explained the difference in sauces (Big Bob Gibson’s is the home of the “white sauce”, a mayonnaise based sauce used on the smoked chicken), and showcased his pride and joy: the pulled pork, smoked chicken, ribs, beef brisket, and smoked turkey. As I sampled these southern delicacies, the smooth flavor of natural juice, hickory, and barbecue sauce confirmed my opinion that this was the best. My plate arrived and I went to town. I poured their award-winning tomato barbecue sauce on the side, drizzled my chicken with the white sauce, and put just the right amount of pepper on my potato salad. At this moment, I don’t know how life could be any better. You know its good barbecue when the BBQ nation goes from a noise level of an Alabama football game to the noise level of an Alabama Sunday morning.

After our meal, Mr. McLemore gave us a tour of the kitchen, his pits, and the competition pit, which is transported on a red trailer of manliness. Throughout the years, Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q has won national barbecue championships for their meat and sauces, including a six year streak of 1st place pork in the Memphis in May Barbecue Championship from 1999-2004. If you don’t believe the locals or the BBQ boys about the superiority of Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q, the restaurant’s wall of awards, magazine articles, and child-sized trophies (they were literally almost as tall as my little brother) should persuade your palate that these folks know their ‘cue. Also, Mr. McLemore told us that he and his wife will travel to as many as 5 or 6 barbecue restaurants in one day. And his office shelf had the evidence to prove it as it was covered in an army of different sauces. We thought we had reached the barbecue mecca in Memphis, Lexington, and Gray. But we were wrong. Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q had the food, the sauces, the awards, the hospitality, and the aura of the perfect barbecue joint.

We grabbed a slice of pie and thanks Mr. McLemore for everything. We have met many people on this journey but nobody had more experience, energy, and charm than Mr. McLemore. We took our final pictures, grabbed our complimentary bottle of sauce (Thanks Mr. McLemore!), and hit the road. I could not think of a better ending to our journey. We have covered many miles, consumed many calories, and created many memories. And without the help of the BBQ nation and people like Mr. McLemore, we would not have made it. Thank you.

please check out them online at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beautiful 'Cue and Company at Byron's - Billy the Kid

Byron’s – Auburn, Al

Billy the Kid

Trucking into Auburn from The Fox Brothers my stomach felt uneasy due to a shot of pepto bismol followed by more pulled pork to top it off.  We were going to be met by a larger group than we were used to working with, a reporter, two photographers, Tyler Peterson, Jeff’s girlfriend, and my friend Kate who are students at AU.  Kate informed me Byron’s had good food, but was not the student favorite at Auburn.  This recommendation was given to us by Tyler Peterson who, an Auburn native and Dean of Recruitment for Southern, was raised on the ‘que at Byron’s. I know that Tyler would never lead any of us astray, I mean he is one of the primary reasons why Captain and I choose Birmingham-Southern.  Our bellies were screaming at us to stop filling it up with just ‘cue, we had just hit for the cycle earlier in the day eating BBQ breakfast. Tyler let know Glenn the owner of Byron’s we were coming by so he was generous with his time and knowledge. He allowed us in the back and showed us around the pit. Glenn was easy to talk to and welcomed our questions about anything regarding his place.  Byron’s was made better by the hospitality they showed to us boys trying our hardest to learn the craft of ‘cue. The passion poured out of Glenn as he discussed his family business and the time that goes into maintaining the establishment. He is constantly putting pork on the pit especially during football season. He also pointed to the low turnover he has in employees which allows for those around him to care about the work they do for Glenn. We have spoken with many people where BBQ is central to their lives each having their own unique story, which adds to our experience. It is so enlightening to hear how many of these folks got into this business and how the develop their sauces. 

Glenn came up with his tasty tomato based sauce and has been running Byron’s for 18 years.  When he told us he was going to bring out everything so we could sample it I didn’t want to let him down by leaving anything on the plate. The taste of Byron’s link sausage was what set this place apart from the others on the trip. The smokey taste filled my mouth and the tender sausage links were dripping in Glenn’s own tomato sauce with a little spice.  All of the food was delicious I felt like a Roman king with hordes of food in front of me and beautiful girls sitting next to me. This was a rare stop where our company at the table was just as pretty as the pork sitting in front of our faces. Wiping the remnants of Glenn’s delicious BBQ from my face I was satisfied that as the trip winds down the quality of the food is at its peak.  From Fox Brothers to Byron’s within a few hours I was in ‘que paradise, and my waistline will pay for it dearly! 

Look for a post trip review soon!!

Dreamland Barbecue


As we make our way from Auburn to Tuscaloosa we passed a red truck pulling a very nice Triton bass boat with a 250hp Mercury rigged up on it. For those of you that know me (Matt) at all, you know that I’m crazy about fishing. As we pass this sweet rig I am thinking to myself: I might just know who this is. Sure enough the tag reads “Zona 1” and we pull up beside Mark Zona. If you are like the other three BBQ Boys, you don’t have a clue who he is. I good analogy might be that he is the Stuart Scott of bass fishing. I proceed to roll down the window and shout at him. I find out that he has just finished filming a show somewhere in south Alabama. After this encounter I knew it was going to be a good day. About an hour later we roll into Tuscaloosa and up into a parking spot at Dreamland Barbecue. Dreamland is one of the best known barbecue hotspots in Alabama. They are famous for their ribs and sauce. The ribs at Dreamland are cooked over a pit for 45 minutes to an hour. Most of the restaurants we visited cooked their ribs for almost 16 hours over a pit before serving the meat. As you might imagine, cooking the ribs so quick made them not quite as tender. Whether you enjoyed the meat or not you cannot help but love the sauce. It is a spicy tomato based barbecue sauce, which is served with white bread to all costumers as they wait to get their entrée. The sauce is definitely the staple for this establishment. The boys and I had two Associated Press writers us while we ate on our second to last day. It is really sad that all of this is coming to an end. It seemed bittersweet to see the end so close ahead, but now as I write this review a few days later I can honestly say that the four of us would do ANYTHING to be back on the road. Isn’t the trip tiring? Sure! Are their some long days and don’t we miss our own beds? You bet! But probably never again will the four BBQ Boys be able to reunite for a trip like this. We made memories and reinforced friendships that will last a lifetime! I love these guys to death. Thank you BBQ Nation for making this trip so great!!

Signing off,

Bus Driver - Matt Lee

Old Clinton BBQ

Old Clinton

As the BBQ Boys made their way through the desolate highways of central Georgia, they came across a small restaurant known as Old Clinton BBQ. Old Clinton is home to some of the best pork sandwiches you will ever find. Their vinegar based sauce mixed with the fresh pork makes this sandwich top tier. A couple of our close friends, Ford and Thomas Ray, were able to join us on our adventure through this leg of the trip. The Rays have been coming to Old Clinton BBQ for almost a decade. They told us that we were would not be disappointed and they could not have been more correct. The sandwiches already had the sauce added to them, which was a vinegar base with a good bit of pepper. Something that separated this vinegar based sauce from all of the others was how strong the pepper was. It actually made me cough after my first bite it was so strong, but it wasn’t overpowering enough to make me quit feasting. One of the owners of this establishment was more than happy to give us a tour. He alternates back and forth from his job at the restaurant and serving in the Air Force. As we began our tour we first stopped at the pit, which was featured in an episode of Dirty Jobs back in February of 2007. He told us that the pit had to be cleaned once every three weeks and assured us that it was definitely not a fun job. This restaurant is family owned and operated. The third generation of this family currently operates Old Clinton BBQ. This barbeque restaurant is definitely worth the trip!! Thank you Ford and Thomas for everything!!

Don’t drink and drive,
Bus Driver

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fame at Fox Bros

Fame at Fox Bros


The main purpose of this journey is to experience barbecue and its placement in southern culture. In addition, we knew this journey would be a narrative of our caloric intake, our travels, and our friendships. The purpose of our blog and Facebook group was to share this story with our family and friends as well as some BBQ fanatics. As we pulled into Fox Bros Bar-B-Q at 6:15 AM, we knew this project had turned into a beast bigger than we expected. As we traveled on our journey, we would reach out to the local media outlets to inform them of our story and arrival. Some accepted our request while others decided that other stories were more important. Yea, it was fun to see our face in the local paper or have a camera in your face while chowing on a rib. But these experiences were nothing compared to the feast and frenzy of Fox Bros. We would be on live TV…I mean this was the big time. Blinky had to hold down his jokes, I had to lower my voice, and Busdriver had to censor his insults. As much as the idea of live TV hypnotized us, we stayed true to our mission. This was about the ‘Cue and nothing else.
We walked in and introduced ourselves to the Fox Bros. As we checked out the beer signs and concert posters, we inquired about the history of their joint. Justin and Jonathan are twins from Texas who started cooking barbecue on an ole’ Weber grill in their back yard. Friends and family enjoyed the all-you-can-eat feast at $10 a pop until it got too big to handle. These dedicated Drive By Truckers fans (which created an instant bond of shared passions: barbecue and DBT) decided to take their food from the backyard to the big time. One year later, they offer the best BBQ in Hotlanta. As the news crew organized their equipment, we found the contents of our feast. Take a seat because this list might knock you down: smoked wings, The Tominator (I’ll explain in a minute), beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled pork sandwich, fries, onion rings, 3 cups of Brunswick Stew, Mac and Cheese, Collards, ribs, BBQ chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, fried pickles, banana pudding, and an endless stream of sweet tea. You also have to consider that it was 7 in the morning on our 14th day and we were on live TV in the metro Atlanta area. Talk about pressure.
We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. The Tominator was amazing. It was crispy tater tots covered in Brunswick Stew and melted cheese. It sounds gross but after that first bite, you ask yourself “Why didn’t someone think of this before?” As the camera loomed over our shoulders, we held our own. I don’t have enough space to cover every item but a couple of observations: 1)if you live in Atlanta, you have to visit Fox Bros, even if you are a vegetarian 2) You have to get the Tominator, the Mac and Cheese, the Ribs, and the Banana Pudding. Period. 3) Atlanta does not have the recognition of a BBQ mecca but it should be considered thanks to Fox Bros. Karen, the Fox Five reporter and most charming person of our trip, encouraged our indulgence and even surprised us with a weigh-off (I had gained five pounds and Billy gained ten..but the accuracy of their scale is yet to be determined) and Pepto Bismol shots. After we licked the last drip of sauce, we had accomplished our mission. No goofs on live TV, a new discovery of wonderful ‘Cue, and enough energy to make it to Auburn. We thanked the Fox Bros, Blaze and Karen of Fox Five, and the other restaurant workers. It was not even 9 AM but it was already a great day. With the Atlanta skyline in the rearview mirror, Babe rolled towards Auburn. I’m not sure if the Auburn faithful will be able to get her to say “War Eagle” but if the ‘Cue is good enough, you never know.

Sweatman's and South Carolina

As we drove the winding roads in back country South Carolina, I distinctly remember looking out the window and thinking how different this was from my home.

We pulled into Sweatman's, which from the exterior looked like a run down wood cabin. Sweatman's was beautifully tucked away in between fields and woods in Holly Hill's, SC. As the boys walked into our coliseum of pork, we noticed that it was only open two days a week. This was one of the most shocking observations I had. And when we asked the middle aged waitress, her response was "I don't know, I guess people only wanted to work two days a week." Could any restaurant in suburban America survive on only being open two days a week? I knew we must have been in for a treat. As we walked in, I notice the shadows of the taxidermy game animals lining the walls like Past Presidents staring down and judging the BBQ Boys. But, I knew we had their approval. We walked in and asked the cashier if we sit and take orders or order just take what we would like from the buffet.

I almost think this was their way of separating the locals from the traitors. We grabed our normal pork sandwiches, which were different because of their yellow tinted honey sauce. This was my first encounter with a yellow based BBQ sauce, and let me say Sweatman's set the level high. The most shocking thing about the place though was the silence. It was set inside an old house, and even though it was slightly crowded, everyone was extremely quiet. I guess we were just being bad followers of the High Pork and allowing Art to talk at a deafening tone. We left Sweatman's gorged and ready to head back to all entertaining Living Larry's, and continue being sponsors for Lipitor.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fresh Air Teaches Me A Lesson- Billy the Kid

Fresh Air BBQ

Billy the Kid

Hello again endearing fans of the BBQ Boys first let me extend a heart-felt thank you to all of you who have kept up with our travels and experiences. Often times I sit at the computer for thirty minutes staring at the screen struggling for words that will be satisfactory to BBQ Nation; it is pretty difficult getting my creative juices to flow with Busdriver and Blinky breathing down my neck. However like any athlete I persevere through the tough days when I wake up and I know I’m not at 100%. I have to get up and prepare my belly for another porktacular performance for BBQ Nation. The BBQ Boys Creed specifically states on page 10 paragraph 2 “ He Who Does Not Clean His Plate Shall Be Hogtied.” My knowledge of the creed is quite extensive and I know the repercussions to be severe if any facet is compromised by our actions. (Don’t ask what happened to the BBQ Boy who ordered grilled chicken…) 

Walking up to Fresh Air BBQ in Athens I had to motivate myself quite a bit to eat ANOTHER pork sandwich. Being the only ones in the restaurant accompanied by the always generous and gregarious Ray brothers (Thomas and Ford made Athens a great experience for all of us!) it was quite dead to say the least. I thought great just what I want another average sandwich with above average company in an absolutely beautiful city. For those of you who have not been to Athens, GA home to the University of Georgia a trip is much needed. With my BSC goggles on I saw many pretty women walking around the streets shopping in quaint trendy boutiques. Honestly BBQ Nation I wanted to be walking around with the goggles on and my mouth open looking at sweet southern Georgia girls, you can’t fault me for that can you? Instead here I am lacking any enthusiasm biting into my pork sandwich knowing if I keep this style of eating up it doesn’t matter what girl it is I will have no chance because my body looks as though I am three months pregnant. Its ok I can get my beach body back by March…I think and I hope. Sorry I digress, to my surprise Fresh Air supplied us with a sandwich that was one of the better we have had on the trip.

My perseverance paid off and I was rewarded once again with the familiar tingle of the taste buds as BBQ rolled down my throat to my belly. Fresh Air is worth visiting while in Athens, but only after you have walked around one of the most beautiful campuses in the South. I was humbled by the pork here at Fresh Air, I learned a valuable lesson your attitude going into something can go a long way in determining the outcome. 

So Long Folks

Pork Always


Monday, January 19, 2009

Worn Out at Wilber's

Worn Out at Wilber's by Captain

As the BBQ Boys pulled into Wilber’s, we were road weary. Babe had traveled more than 1400 miles, it was our 12th BBQ meal, and half of the BBQ quartet was sick (Will’s sore throat and Matt’s stomach battle with bad ribs). Our scenery was staying the same: lonely farms, cookie cutter shopping centers, and endless streams of road signs. We debated the option of skipping Wilber’s but if we wanted to stay strong and honestly sample NC’s best ‘cue, we needed to make a stop. We hopped out of Babe, made sure Matt had his Pepto, and walked through the doors. We were confused at first. A buffet line was at our left, a register in front of us, and a Waffle-House type counter to our right. Based on the emotionless stare of the waitress, we got the drift and took a seat. It was a quiet place with simple wooden walls and red-checkered tablecloths.

“Yall gonna have tea?” was the first words of our waitress. We declined, preferring water on behalf of our health. We were about sick of pulled pork so we all ordered a half barbecued chicken with slaw, potato salad, and hushpuppies. As she took our menus, the waitress accidently spilled Blinky’s water. The mess was quickly mopped up and one of those yellow “wet floor” signs was placed by our table. Based on our current state, it should have read “worn out BBQ Boys” The dinner conversation consisted of mostly silence with various comments on future destinations and inquires about our friends’ overseas travels.
Our food arrived and we struggled to pick up the forks. The chicken was covered in a thick, Kraft Mac & Cheese colored liquid that we concluded was barbecue gravy. The chicken was tender and slightly smokey but nothing special. The hushpuppies were as sweet as funnel cake and continued to be a BBQ Boys favorite in the Tarheel State. The slaw was sweet and mayonnaise-based but again, nothing special. Maybe our palates had been exposed to so much great ‘cue that we could not taste the greatness. I sure felt worn out. The energy in the restaurant continued to be lackluster as more folks walked in. Maybe the people of Goldsboro were tired. Maybe the BBQ boys were too worn out to give this BBQ establishment 100%. I think it was a little bit of both.
We picked off the last strands of chicken, grabbed our tickets, and paid. Even the cashier lacked enthusiasm. Man, what it is with this place. We took a couple of pictures and jumped in Babe. We hit the road for Florence, SC for a couple of days with Livin’ Larry. To be fair to the Wilber’s faithful, it deserves a return trip from the BBQ Boys. For us, barbecue is a lifetime devotion so Im sure we will be back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stamey's BBQ

Stamey’s Barbecue -- by Bus Driver

First I would like to apologize to Barbecue nation for my length on responding to our meal Monday night at Stamey’s BBQ. I ended up getting food poisoning the next day in Raleigh and after that the Bus Driver was out of commission for a couple of days. I feel almost back to one hundred percent now.

Stamey’s BBQ is located in Greensboro, NC. When you first walk in this locally appreciated establishment, you are greeted by pictures of George W. Bush from when he visited the restaurant in August of 2006. We also had the pleasure of meeting with Barbecue phenom David Bailey. He works with the publishers of Delta Sky magazine and last judged the Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Championship in Lynchburg, TN. Mr. Bailey brought along with him his wife and a well-known editorial writer from Greensboro who decided not to cover the story. It really helps to have a person as obsessed with barbecue as Mr. Bailey there to help explain North Carolina barbecue to the naïve BBQ Boys. We were not terribly impressed with the food, which I think attests to how good the meal at Lexington BBQ was just a few hours earlier. The boys had a mix between chopped pork and the barbecue sandwiches. This restaurant chain definitely has nothing on the family owned and run business just down the road.

I have to give a quick thanks to my fellow BBQ Boys for taking such good care of me when I was sick. They always made sure that I was as comfortable as possible when I was sick. There is nothing worse than being dog sick and being on the road.

Lovin' the BBQ Life with Livin' Larry

North Carolina had delivered highs and lows..literally. Great ''Cue in Lexington and Greenville. Lackluster pork in Greensboro and Goldsboro. Misty mountains of Cashiers and flat, coast-like land of eastern NC. Social angels in Lexington and grumpy gofers in Goldsboro. We were sad to leave the state but we knew more 'cue needed to be tested and consumed.

Our time in South Carolina would be spent in the presence of "Livin" Larry, Will's uncle. He had a house in Florence, a condo in Myrtle Beach, and a life full of energy and entertainment. Larry is the kind of man who you trust and follow when he makes a recommendation. He had one recommendation: Scott's in Hemingway, SC. He did not give us much description about the restaurant except for one thing, "it's rural." I did not think anything of it. I mean, I'm from Russellville which is fairly rural in my book. I knew our drive would be highlighted by wide open fields, endless trees, and random roadkill. We pulled out of Larry's Florence home and hit the road. Sure enough, we encountered fields, millions of pine trees, and an occasional, deceased raccoon. But this rural road was different from any I had ever encountered. I felt like I was traveling back in time. No corporate gas stations, speed limit signs, or any other vehicles for that matter.

As we pulled into Scott's, I had to pinch myself. The sign was missing letters, the cars in the parking lot were older than my little brother (he is 15), and the vending machine had an option for Tab. We walked in and didn't know what to do. There was no menu, no tables, one refrigerator, and a shelf with sliced bread. A sign on the wall listed different options: whole hog $400, half hog $200, etc. We weren't hungry enough to eat an entire pig but Livin' Larry took care of us. He instructed us to come with him towards the pit. We walked in and there was a bed of pig skins on my right, a bubbling pot of oil on my left, and a dirt floor. In the words of Livin Larry, "This was as country as country can be. This is it."
We continued into the back and examined four pits of smoking pork, whole hog style. We thought had seen everything in the BBQ world until our next step. Corey, a worker at Scott's, was sitting over a small grill. I did not recognize the item so I asked, "What is that?" "A hog head" "what?" "a hog head. Someone ordered it so we started cooking this morning" The pig head was split in two and you could see the teeth. I did not care to consume this SC delicacy but someone in Hemingway would have that opportunity in the near future.

We thanked Corey for the tour and headed back inside. We grabbed our pint of pulled pork, a cup of sauce, and opened up a loaf of Sunbeam bread. It was simple but wonderful. For me, it was the best barbecue sandwich ever. It was a beautiful sight. We were standing up, eating a sliced bread, pulled pork sandwich, and gulping a Red Rock Strawberry soda. We were literally living high on the hog.
Many of the BBQ restaurants we have stopped at claim to be authentic and original. They have no idea what they are talking about. Scott's is cash only, no advertisements, no sides, no menu, and no tables. But the 'Cue speaks for itself. The sauce was a perfect vinegar sauce with a creeping force of heat. You could taste the heat and flavor for at least 5 minutes after i finished my sandwich. Delicious. I guarantee you that this place has not changed in the last 30 years and I loved it for that. The South is changing into a world of suburbs, and industry based on the power of our brain, not our muscles. But Scott's is one of the few places where you can still experience and taste the real South, the South that writers romanticize about and cooks try to imitate. It will be hard to not compare my future 'Cue to this genuine establishment. If you want to truly experience Southern BBQ, you must, must come to Scott's barbecue. You will have to call Larry Foster for directions but it is worth every mile and minute.

21st Century BBQ? The Pit- Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

The Pit

Arriving in Raleigh we ventured through the city trying to find a WIFI hotspot. We parked the car in front of the Governors mansion and I could see Art’s mouth salivating, thinking that one day he would rest his beautiful, flawless head of hair in a mansion similar to this, with me his dutiful assistant rushing in and out bringing him sweet tea and sweet women. We walked to the state library in Raleigh assuming it would have bountiful amounts of WIFI for us to mooch. Instead we were met by the rudest librarian who looked and spoke to me as if I was trying burn all of his books. Each of us decided this was due to our movement North and we had finally encountered a yankee who was probably from Buffalo which is reason to be depressed anyway…As we strolled through the city our unfriendly encounter dampened our spirits and made me resent even being here. Walking into our restaurant, the Pit, I only expected more unfriendly city slickers who could care less about our story. I was pleasantly surprised to meet Matt our waiter who took a keen interest to our story and us as individuals. Its funny how whenever you are about to write off mankind as cruel and self-centered you meet someone who immediately changes your perceptions. Matt told us The Pit only uses free range hogs who aren’t pumped full of steroids and medicines. To match the all-natural hogs The Pit also use all organic vegetables for their sides. I decided this was the new face of BBQ. This restaurant was trendy and upper-class with cozy booths that resembles a fine Italian restaurant. The feel was not of a BBQ joint but of a hip steak house where you could find yuppie businessman trying to make moves on high maintenance women. Matt also explained how the bar primarily served domestic beers on tap that could be matched with the pork and ribs. The Pit had managed to take a messy cheap food and transformed it into an upscale establishment with white linen table clothes. The food was average, but we could all tell The Pit was onto something, this type of restaurant could thrive as a unique and hip alternative to the rural joints typically associated with BBQ. Each of us loved our food, even Busdriver.

Later in the evening Busdriver woke us all up with violent convulsions, as the free-range hog didn’t exactly get along with his stomach to say the least. Poor Busdriver was AWOL from the table for three days after getting sick from the Carolina Spare Ribs. It felt weird eating lunch and dinner without your best friend at the table. It didn’t feel right without Matt, I then realized how critical each of us are to the group; the four us work together like John, Paul, George, and Ringo or if you prefer The Jonas Brothers. I would not want anyone other than us on the trip, first of all I don’t think I could get along with many other people for 17 days, these are my best friends and who better to share this experience with than them? I talked to my wonderful mother about Busdriver and she told me I owed it to BBQ Nation to inform them of Busdriver’s sickness resulting from The Pit. I can’t let any of our fans get sick on my watch! I did enjoy my food though; the pork was a tremendous example of Eastern NC chopped pork. The vinegar-based sauce was also laced with peppers, which made you gulp copious amounts of sweet tea. The sides were as if they had just come off the farm fresh. The Pit was a nice place to go, however I felt out of place at a upscale BBQ eatery. I personally prefer the true essence of BBQ and what it represents. A place where people from all walks of life can come together over food and enjoy a simple meal that tantalizes the taste buds. The Pit didn’t have the magic or mystique that other place we have visited possess.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trip Summary - Part I

Until a few hours ago our BBQ trip was best described with numbers. How many pulled pork sandwich's we had consumed, how many miles of pavement Babe had navigated and the amount of tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through our highly recognizable rectal gases. When we left seven days ago and made a left onto Arkadelphia Road none of us dreamed that so far we would have been on the news three times in three different states. That our story would be read by families all over the South or simply used as a way to absorb puppy urine on kitchen floors. Somewhere along our journey I distinctly remember an elderly woman telling me that our story brought her nothing but jealousy. And it wasn't until this morning, sitting inside the Holy Grail of BBQ, B's in Greenville, North Carolina that I knew why. Because in fact, our story could not be measured in numbers, but as famously said, in moments. Never again, would sit in back of a black expedition with a peptobismol pink pig nose on the front, with Tom Petty blaring over the blown out speakers and with wind blowing in from one window and my youth and journey blowing out threw the other. Never again would I be able to sit on the banks of the Mississippi and watch the water rush by, and with it my college years. Never again would I be able to visit the place Martin Luther King was shot. Never again would I be able to spend 18 days driving down the back roads of America with my three best friends. And never again would I take people, conversations, BBQ and memories for granted.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guest Blogger

BBQ Nation,

We had dinner last night with BBQ Expert David "True 'Cue" Bailey. He was gracious enough to post a story about our journey. Check it out!

Here is the link: Cue Confessions

Love in Lexington

Love in Lexington By Captain

We left Billy’s mountain house rested and assured of our future pork progress. It was nice to take a quick break from ‘cue before we took on our longest drive yet. We knew we were heading to Lexington, which is dubbed as a Carolina BBQ destination, but we had no clue which restaurant would we chose. As we drove through the mountains, our plans began to evolve. Via Blackberry, David “True Cue” Bailey insisted that we visit Lexington BBQ No. 1. It sounded fine by us so we typed it into the TomTom and set sail. However, the TomTom had not received her morning cup of joe. We had to turn around three times and make two phone calls, but we made it. It was about 1:15 on a Monday and the parking lot was packed. This is a good sign for good ‘cue.

We walked in and immediately sensed the community feel. Lawyers, farmers, teenagers, and children occupied the booths. Our waitress greeted us with a warm smile. Even before my first bite, I liked this place. We took our seats and the local Lexington reporter told me that President Bill Clinton sat in my exact seat when he came through with Hillary’s campaign. All of the BBQ Boys turned their heads towards me and smiled. This feeling of humility came over me. For the first time on our trip, I realized how fortunate and lucky we were. We get to study BBQ, create laughs and memories with our best friends, and get a chance to share our passion for barbecue with random strangers. On top of that, I had randomly picked President Clinton’s seat of preference. What a country.
Our waitress took our orders and explained the menu. This was our first establishment of Western NC barbecue. A sweet sauce with a ketchup/tomato base, pork from the shoulder only, and signature hushpuppies characterizes Western BBQ. I was in the mood for pork so I ordered chopped pork, “brown”, with slaw. “Brown” is a term that refers to a cut of meat that is a little tougher than your normal chopped pork but has a stronger flavor. As we waited for our food to arrive, we chatted with the locals. From day one, people were friendly everywhere but this crowd was like our fan club: they kept asking questions, wanted more information, and wished us well on our journey.
As we finished our conversations, our rations arrived. My chopped pork and slaw arrived in a loveboat, no pun intended. Slaw on the left and juicy, mouthwatering, hickory-flavored, sauce covered, brown’d chopped pork on the right. It was a vinegar-based slaw that included ketchup and pepper for the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. The pork was a ying-yang of perfection: tender, white meat with the tough (like beef jerky) but manageable “brown”. When I dream about BBQ (which I am not sure if I ever will after this trip), this is what I think about. Now the pork was not everything. The hushpuppies were not round but French fry shaped. The sweet tea was just like your grandmother’s: not too syrupy but enough sweet to make anyone smile. Also, Lexington barbecue offers pork skins, where they take the actual skin of the hog and deep fry each inch till they reach the ultimate level of crunch and flavor.
After our meal, we were given a tour of the pit and kitchen by Nathan Monk, grandson of the founder and owner Honey Monk.

And the people of this place. One person offered his sister’s phone number (thanks Todd), one person was a food magazine editor who was aware of Cullman, AL, and a a group of sweet women offered a place to stay in Myrtle Beach. And not only did Nathan give us a tour, he picked up our tab. We could not have asked for a better experience. Babe pulled out of the parking lot with a car full of content boys who were rejuvenated for their journey of barbecue. To Lexington Barbecue and everyone in Lexington, thank you!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chowin Down in Chattanooga

Chowin in Chattanooga by Captain

We arrived in Chattanooga after a long, rainy drive from Nashville. The ride was characterized by insults, inside jokes, boring farmland, intense rain, and attempts at attention towards passing coeds. We were on our journey. We had no idea how to get to Sticky Fingers, but we trusted the wisdom of TomTom, Babe’s navigational brain. As the mile markers waved by and bodily odors floated out of the window, we pulled around Lookout Mountain and drove into downtown Chattanooga. We walked into Sticky Fingers and instantly observed the display of Sticky Fingers take-home trinkets. Shirts, stickers, aprons, sauce packs. They seemed to have everything. We were ushered to our seats and took a look over the menu. We still were full from our morning breakfast so I decided to order my favorites to share: ribs and chicken wings. As Captain, I knew that this would be the best strategy for our patience, our palates, and our stomachs. Our feast arrived and we rolled up our sleeves.

Since we ordered the sampler platter, we tried every type of sauce. At Sticky Fingers, five sauces are available for your consumption. Carolina Sweet is a tomato-based sauce that is almost jolly rancher sweet. Tennessee Whiskey begins with a subtle brown sugar-like sweetness then a whiskey flavor sneaks in. Memphis Original is a smoky, heavy sauce that is equal parts hickory and molasses. Carolina Classic reflects the taste of South Carolina: mustard laced with honey. Haberno Hot presented a basic barbecue flavor followed by a wave of heat on the back of your throat. I recommend every sauce for any type of meat and any occasion.
Getting back to the meat, the dry ribs were tender with a middle amount of thumb grease (amount of grease left after one takes a bite and puts down the rib). This was our seventh meal and while the ribs did not blow me away, the tenderness and diversity of sauces placed them in a top tier. But compared to the chicken wings, it was like eating a McDonald’s McRib.

These were juiciest, tastiest chicken wings I have ever, ever put in my mouth. BBQ Nation, you may not think of chicken wings as barbecue, but these are an exception. The waiter told us that the wings are fresh, hickory smoked for 4 hours, and lightly covered in a dry rub. But these chicken wings are as big as a baby rattler. One bite and you are taken on a roller coaster of natural juice and tender meat. We ordered twelve and the plate was spotless in two minutes flat. To complement the wings, a barbecue ranch was used as the icing on the cake. Outstanding. BBQ Nation, if anyone is a fan of chicken wings, you have to take a trip to your local Sticky Fingers. We finished our feast, wiped our hands on their dishtowel-like napkins, and headed back to Babe. We gave Chattanooga a quick visit and she gave us a barbecue spot with charming sauces and heavenly chicken wings. The BBQ Boys will be back.

BBQ Boys Visit Nashvegas- Billy the Kid

Jack’s BBQ Nashville, TN

Immediately walking into Jack’s from busy Broadway Street the line was out the door. When this many folks gather themselves in a line and are surprisingly patient I knew this would be a special place. Before noticing the menu or the BBQ (sorry Robin…) I noticed beautiful Brittany at the cash register. She seemed so friendly speaking to customers as if she had known them forever. I secretly couldn’t wait to get to the end of the line and tell her I am in fact a member of the notorious BBQ Boys. Our eyes met for a second and I quickly looked away back at Captain and Bus Driver, my face felt like it was melting because I knew she saw my staring. Waiting in line I hoped she wouldn’t remember me when it came to be my turn ordering, Luckily we all excused ourselves from the line when Larry the newspaper reporter swooped in asking for some pictures of the group outside. Upon our return Larry had asked Brittany to take us on a tour of Jack’s. She took us up to the smoker where the meat was being cooked, her BBQ IQ made all of us googly eyed, but I knew we had our moment earlier so I wasn’t worried. She could tell just by touching the meat that the pork shoulders would need over eight more hours of cooking. Can you imagine having someone like this cooking dinner for you? If right then and there she had said she loves football and Kenny Chesney I would have said goodbye to my friends and applied for a job at Jack’s cleaning bathrooms to be close to her. Captain asked Brittany what she would she suggest, keep in mind I haven’t even spoken to my dream girl yet but I knew she felt something towards me the awkward, tall, lanky, goofy dude. She provided us with a feast of epic proportion, as we were able to sample all the meat and every trimming Jack offers. At Jack’s I didn’t even need to use sauce on the meat was so flavorful and tender. I tried to contain myself as Larry asked Captain questions about our journey, as Larry left the group had a real bonding moment. For once all of us shared equal contentment and happiness.

Here we were the journey was finally coming together and taking shape. None of us care about the publicity nor are we motivated by it, simply put we are four friends who have come closer together through this journey. My memories from Jack’s will involve not only great food, but the people and atmosphere that help make Jack’s a true representation of the hospitality the South represents.

Nashville has been our favorite city thus far, but I was able to see a part of Nashville many would never dare to go. What is this you may ask? Captain and I accompanied by our guide visited legendary country musician Johnny Cash’s grave. Just before midnight half of the BBQ Boys shared a moment with the man in black. With Ring of Fire playing in my head I stepped toward the grave, and told him how much we loved his city and that our Pilgrimage of Pork had to include a trip to his resting place. His influence over music has been widespread, and I expected a much larger grave or even a statue when we came upon he and his wife, June Carter Cash. His humble gravesite reinforced to Capt. and I that this trip will only be temporary, much like life, and at some point we like him will be six feet under next to the ones we love. So eat some pork, laugh often, and live well.

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

- Psalm on the tombstone of Johnny Cash

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Grouchy at Corky's- Captain Art Richey

When we arrived at Corky's, we were pretty beat. In the matter of 10 hours, we had accomplished the following: wake up, showered, ran (Blinky), studied for the LSAT (Captain), ate breakfast, meet a nice security guard and wrestled (not with her) on the banks of the Mississippi River, ate at the Neely's, toured the National Civil Rights Museum, and dropped our stuff off at Mitchell Dean's home. In addition to this constant go-go-go, the BCS national championship game was starting at 7 and we wanted to eat at Corky's without missing one second of Tebow and Bradford. We walked in the door and families were everywhere. The place was crammed with people and we luckily found a place to rest our weary rear-ends. To say the least, our attitudes and moods leaned more towards Oscar the Grouch than Bert and Ernie.

Our table was called and we walked down a narrow hallway towards our field of food. Like a road tested team, we knew it was game time. Busdriver pumped up his shoulders, Billy headbutted the wall, and Blinky just blinked. We knew it was time. We took our seats and immediately noticed the clean, chain-like feel of the restaurant. It was a genuine BBQ joint but it seemed like everyone was going through the motions: our waitress displayed her luke-warm smile, the surrounding families were consuming BBQ as if it was labor, and the BBQ Boys were more focused on Florida's chances than the menu options. As captain, I knew something was needed to the BBQ Boys team. I ordered the sausage and cheese platter as a motivator. The sausage and cheese platter was a smart choice for the moment: a succulent piece of kielbasa sausage covered in BBQ sauce, cheese cubes, pickles, and some grapes. It was the spark that the BBQ boys needed. Our meals arrived and we digged in. Blinky enjoyed the chicken. I tried a piece and it was good but nothing outstanding. Billy and I shared the ribs. There were excellent. The rib meat was tender with little grease. The dry rub was a smooth complement as the meat fell straight off the bone. I am not kidding when I attest that our rib bones were meat-free when we finished. The sauce was a sweet, tomato based sauce that had a hint of apple butter with a dash of savory hickory.
We continued to watch our watches as kickoff inched closer. Unfortunately, the owner was unavailable for comments questions. We wiped off our faces and made plans to watch the game. Corky's has received national acclaim for their 'Cue but after 2 days of Memphis 'Cue, it was not my favorite. Maybe it was our lack of energy, the stress of the atmosphere, and the pressure of kickoff that put a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully, we will have a chance to come back and get a 2nd chance at this provider of pork.

Neely's Interview

A picture of the famous BBQ Spaghetti at Neely's

After our stomach stretching lunch full of pulled pork and ribs, we had the opportunity to interrogate Mark Neely. Mark is one of the proudest BBQ connoisseurs I've ever meet, whose 50 inch biceps resemble the torso of a full grown obese bull. Approaching the table looking somewhat frustrated, I now know what DaVinci looked like after being disturbed while painting the Mona Lisa. Mark quietly said, "How can I help you guys?" with his bear claws resting calmly in his acid washed Levi's. Captain immediately starts using his small town Alabama knowledge and begins milking Mark's utter of knowledge on BBQ. He begins explaining, "we indirectly cook our meat, it is separated on the grill." Mark then thoroughly marinates our brain with Neely's unique process, "We cook the ribs for 6 hours, and marinate it with the rub for 24-48 hours." Than, almost sounding as if someone was about to insult him, "We only use hickory wood, no exception!" It is from this point on, Mark can tell that we are almost on our knees worshiping his every sound and commandment. Then moving on to the sides, Mark proclaims, "We only use raw ingredients, everything is made here, we buy everything local." Mark's passion is almost overwhelming and I can tell Billy understands that if the Greek's had a BBQ God, it would be a 6'0, 250 lbs. Mark Neely. Interrupting the BBQ sermon, Captain flex' s his spinach deprived BBQ biceps and asks about the sauce. Taking a slow and deep breath, Mark lets out a small smirk and says, "we use 20 different ingredients, three different sugars and we after 21 years we are still evolving." He begins naming all these foreign ingredients, feeling like a naive seasick Christopher Columbus stumbling across new spices, The Busdriver gives me a confused saturated smile. Acting like a kid in a candy store, Mark pours on about the process of cooking shoulders. "They are cooked between 275-300 degrees only for about 12-14 hours." Mark's work ethic is apparent, as he lets us know he gets there at 6 in the morning to put them grill. "I work 6-7 days a week, and usually 12 -14 hours a day." Immediately, I feel completely lazy and envy Mark who wakes up everyday to perform his art. Mark then moves on to the business aspect, "I do everything, I had to fix the bathroom sink this morning, all I had to do was unscrew the nozzle and it worked. I saved myself a couple hundred dollars." Billy then asks rather bold question, "So you do everything, including manuel labor?" Mark proudly says, "Yes, I do everything that needs to be done."

If I left Neely's with anything it was the hope that everyday I wake up with the same passion about my life's work as Mark Neely does.

In all stability,

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Change of Plans...


I have always categorized Memphis with barbecue. During my childhood, Memphis was one of our weekend getaways. I have memories of wondering how BBQ sauce could stay underneath my fingernails for so long while I roamed the aisles of the local bookstore. I remember enjoying the food and making a mess but I did not fully appreciate Memphis’ culinary gift until my teenager years. I knew a lot about BBQ and where the hotspots were: Rendezvous and Corky’s were our family favorites. But until this trip, I had never REALLY studied and analyzed the ‘cue. As captain, I knew Memphis was the perfect place to start.

The BBQ Boys left Birmingham with the mouthwatering anticipation of our first pulled pork sandwich. As we drove up US 78, we talked about how we would ask our questions, take pictures, and record our critiques. In Babe (our vehicle), the spacious leg room and rhymes of Lil Wayne set the perfect mood: a sigh of relief that we were finally on the road but antsy about what this journey would bring to our stomachs, our fans, and our friendship amongst each other.

Our first stop in Memphis was the Commissary. This hometown joint was an excellent stop for a great sandwich, sinful deviled eggs, and some of the best BBQ chips in the world. We finished our meal and headed to Wes George’ home to meet the family, shoot some hoops, and drop off our luggage. To our surprise, Wes’ dad had scored some Memphis Tigers basketball tickets for the night game against Marshall. To those lacking NCAA basketball knowledge, Memphis Tigers basketball is almost as big as BBQ and B.B. King in this river town. We were hyper about this great night: dinner at Rendezvous, a Memphis Tigers game, and a warm home to rest our heads. We headed downtown and began our quest for Rendezvous. Our pre-trip research confirmed that Rendezvous would be one of the best ribs joints on our journey. As we walked down the street, we talked about what each of us would get. Everyone wanted the ribs but Wes and I particularly wanted the sausage and cheese plate while Blinky confirmed that he would put his health over taste. Sad. We turned the corner and saw the Rendezvous sign. It was 6:30 on a Wednesday night. No one was outside the restaurant and the alley is strangely desolate. Something was wrong. We walked to the door and the huge black bars were over the door. The lights were off. The sign said it was closed until January 16. We felt like little kids on Christmas without any presents underneath the tree. We were devastated. I had to bring Billy out of shock like a boxing manager, “Cmon, Kid, get back in the game”.

We organized ourselves and decided to walk Beale Street. We walked into B.B.King’s bar. It was mediocre. Imagine the corporate feel of a Hard Rock Café but with B.B. King’s name slapped on everything. The charismatic host suggested the ribs but we knew better. We grabbed a quick drink and headed back to the game. We arrived at the FedEx Forum. We found out seats, which were five rows from the top, and took our seats. We looked at each other and confirmed that we were living the good life. Still craving ‘Cue, Wes suggested that we try the barbecue nachos. My tastebuds perked up like a bird dog.

Ignoring the pre-game commentary, Wes and I headed to on our adventure of BBQ nachos. Pushing through the ocean blue of the Memphis faithful, we found it. It was a simple stand with a simple meal: stadium nachos, pulled pork, barbecue sauce, nacho cheese, and a dry-rub seasoning garnish. While working back to our seats, it was torture to smell the devilish concoction without getting a bite. I felt like Rocky running up to my seats. I set down my Mountain Dew and dove in. What an interesting taste. The nacho and BBQ sauce mixture was a pleasant taste of creamy cheese and smoky flavor. The pork was what I expected: slightly greasy but good enough to please the palate. I finished the nachos, used my tenth napkin, and threw my platter down like a champion. This ‘Cue was not Rendezvous but it was a worthy substitute. Back to the game, we found Mitchell Dean and he claimed to have better tickets for us. Matt and I headed down from our nose-bleed section and meet with Mitchell. We gave us the golden tickets…fifth row. We made to our seats, where there were more suits and Rolexs than Memphis hats and Miller Lites. We were wide-eyed college kids in a world of big money. The game was lackluster but it was such a memorable experience. From the disappointment of Rendezvous, the pleasant surprise of BBQ nachos, and the upgraded seats, it was a successful night for the BBQ Boys.

I Have Seen the Promise Land... Billy the Kid

The Commissary

Billy The Kid

Talking about eating BBQ and the thought of this trip has been dominating our conversations and overwhelming our brains, but finally the meetings and reading were over. The door slammed and we were off with the blessing of our families and friends. I was happy Memphis would be our first stop where our palettes would be the purest and most receptive to this savory southern tradition. Memphis is a city I have never been to before and I was excited to see the origin of blues and the banks of the longest river in the states. The most boring drive known to man was slowed down by our enormous turtle shell on top of the roof to hold our luggage, with windy conditions the turtle hindered us going faster than 60 mph. This seemingly only heightened the anticipation in the car and the tension felt palpable as we imagined diving head first into not only the BBQ but also the entire culture in Memphis. The commissary came highly recommended by our native Memphian who also served as our host and tour guide, Wes guided us to the joint as we parked a wave of silence came over the car. First we didn’t exactly know how to react no one moved or said a word as we stared at the restaurant. The sun was hitting it just right and it almost had a glow I imagined Moses would have seen a similar scene gazing into the promise land. I felt similar only I was going to actually get into the promise land and gorge myself on such delicatessens like BBQ chips and coleslaw. Each of us had put hours of work into this project and many more hours thinking about this moment when we enter our first restaurant. Captain popped open the supply kit containing our supplies. Notebooks in hand and pens at the ready we were prepared like a runner right before the gun shooting off to start the New York marathon. Crossing a lonely road like a pack of ducklings following our mother (Captain) we entered the tiny restaurant.

The Commissary was opened as a general store serving as a resting place for those passing through town as well as supplying the locals with food or hardware supplies. This feeling was apparent as the walls were decorated with antiques that felt authentic as opposed to Friday’s where they throw anything on the wall that appears to be old and trendy. Our enthusiasm was hardly controllable as we spit our orders in some form of mumbling to the patient waitress. I didn’t know until later that at our FIRST BBQ restaurant Blinky ordered grilled chicken sandwich. I know the Pope mentioned this in his list of the seven sins and it had been committed on our first day! I quietly prayed to the High Hog asking for forgiveness of Blinky and his confused stomach. I didn’t know if I should ride in the car with him for fear of being struck down and turned into ribs by the High Hog himself. My spirits were lifted as our meal had been clearly blessed. The meat could have been eaten without any sauce on the sandwich. I ordered it Memphis style with coleslaw on top of the meat. I put a little sauce on the pork and it immediately enveloped my mouth with a smoky taste followed by a hint of brown sugar. The pork sandwich was good enough to put me on my first BBQ high of the trip. My mood became relaxed and I sat back and soaked in my surroundings. The small area forced us to sit close to each other and really talk amongst ourselves. I imagined a busy lunch crowd crammed in like sardines but not minding at all because the pork will make the work day behind the desk that much more bearable. The first visit could not have been better; was concluded by a banana pudding shared by all of us. On my first bite it was like I sunk the battleship with my first guess…I pulled up my spoon and there was an entire chunk of banana waiting to please my stomach. I decided one could not be luckier hands behind my head my face gave the group the only approval needed, a smile of satisfaction.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I awoke early this morning to the overwhelming noise of Art studying for his LSAT and Will's triumphant discussion of our trip to the news reporter. After watching my comrades bask in our fame and glory I decided this would be a prime time to hog the scarce shower hot water. After everyone was ready, and Art packed up his bag we said our goodbye's and hit the road. We then headed to our next destination -- Neely's Bar-B-Que. Compared to the Commissary, the exterior of Neely's did not resemble a Bar-B-Que mecca, but instead a small dive bar hiding in the shadows of the bailout begging car dealerships. After sitting down at the plaid table clothed table, I instantly feel like the heat of the fluorescent beer signs overhead and ringing Memphis blues coming from the speakers. I was surprised by the small crowd seated in small Bar-B-Que haven. After I order my second pulled pork sandwich of the trip, the waitress brings a basket of bread marinated in cholesterol clogging butter. Obviously, Will is the first to jump into the heart attack drenched dough.

Luckily, the heard of BBQ sandwich's came out after only ten minutes and we began our temporary crusade. Much like scientist's we began discussing our immediate observations. Art was slurping up his BBQ spaghetti which I must say was extremely good! However, the funniest food choice was the 3 lbs. of rib tips Matt ordered, which only temporarily acted as a muzzle for his complements of the attractive middle aged woman across the room. My BBQ sandwich was tender and full of flavor. But, the ingredient that made it amazing was the slaw that acted as a cherry conquering an ice cream sunday. I immediately destroyed my meal and began counting the calories in my head. The highlight of Neely's definitely had to be the informal question and answer session with Mr. Neely, one of the owners. I will leave the details of the interview to one of my other fellow comrades, but it was as informative as hoped.

As a business major, Mr. Neely state his keys to success are "keeping the recipes consistent" and "family members who care."

In all stability,

Demetri's Dessert (Homewood, AL)

Just had to add one more thing about Demetri's... If you do get the chance to visit you have to try the Lemon Pie for dessert! It will definately rank among the top lemon pies you have ever had the pleasure of indulging in. And I personally believe great BBQ restaurants should also have great desserts! When Sam gave us a tour of the restaurant, the workers were in the back squeezing fresh lemons to make this delicious dessert. This just helped solidify my previous assumptions. Lemon pie at Demetri's is a must.

Thanks again for all of your support!!

Bus Driver

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Blues, Basketball, and Barbecue

There could be no more fitting place to begin a tour of barbecue in the South than the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock n' roll. Beyond holding a reputation for having some of the best barbecue around, Memphis, Tennessee is also a vibrant city full of energy, culture, and history. Musical tradition in Memphis runs deep, with delta blues, gospel, and rock n' roll all owing much to the city for its roots and influences. The tastes and smells of Memphis are perhaps the most recognizable and memorable impressions to visitors of the city, with barbecue and soul food contributing to Memphis' standing as America's unhealthiest city (and we're proud of it, too). Basketball provides an opportunity to work off the extra calories from one's equine indulgences. Professional, collegiate and high school basketball all are wildly popular among Memphians, and the pristine FedExForum arena provides a great venue to watch a game. As a native of the city, I am proud to have had the opportunity to host our brave purveyors of pork in Memphis.

Memphians take great pride in the barbecue that has become part of their civic identity. Memphis-style barbecue is both distinctive and delicious, and is copied by restaurants all over the country who attempt to recreate the taste and the experience. A sweet and/or hot vinegar-based sauce, dry rubbed pork ribs, and chopped pork shoulder are all characteristic of the Memphis-style of barbecue (note that neither beef nor chicken were mentioned in the previous sentence... Jeff). Though the sauce is always included with the barbecue, it is intended to serve as a complement to the pork rather than being a necessity. This ensures that the pork is tender and succulent, and is appetizing on its own accord.

The barbecue boys have enjoyed many of the highlights of the Memphis experience during their short stay in the Bluff City. They walked with their feet ten feet off of Beale, took in a Memphis Tigers basketball game at the Forum, and explored the neon jungle of Poplar Avenue in the BBQ-mobile, affectionately dubbed "Babe." The boys have experienced the best that Memphis has to offer, and my only regret is that I fear that they have nowhere to go but downhill from here (especially in that black hole of culture known as Nashville).

Greetings from Memphis,
Wes George

The First Encounter With Fame- Billy the Kid

Demetri's BBQ Homewood, AL

I woke up a little earlier than I should have for our 11:30 lunch meeting with Robin. I knew getting ready today would be especially important; this was the start of a new life as a television star. I could see the paparazzi stalking me already wondering what famous actress I was dating now.  I knew this BBQ trip would afford me with many opportunities but ABC 33/40 coming to our location and interview us? I never thought this would happen in my wildest dreams.  With the camera in my face I shined, my interview might win the reporter a Peabody to be quite honest.  I could feel the other patrons in the restaurant staring at me, which made me a little uncomfortable but I told myself this comes with the territory of being a TV star.  Then the waitress asked me what I would be eating, suddenly reality sunk back in. I timidly answered and ordered the chopped pork plate with baked beans and potato salad for the trimmings.  Sam Nakos, the owner and who’s father Demitri created the famous sauce, welcomed us with complementary wings and onion rings.  The wings were delicious, the charred outside was followed by tender, juicy pink meat that met my lips with much pleasure and gratification.  Many wings have over powering spice that burns a hole in your body, Sam’s only had a dry rub that makes them original and simply scrumptious.  We came to find out that these wings take an hour and half to cook in the BBQ pit. His wings cost as much as those “morons” who only throw them in the frying grease for two minutes.  Observing the busy restaurant atmosphere many types of people were enjoying Demitri’s BBQ.  Young lawyers taking a break from writing briefs and old construction workers resting their worn hands from labor, enjoying the original red sauce common in most Birmingham BBQ joints.  Sam was generous with his time returning to our table and allowing us to venture into his world of BBQ. He has worked in the restaurant since he was 8 years old, he works for as he says “the people and the recipes.”  He offered to take the group on a tour of the kitchen.   Seeing how a true BBQ joint is operated and runs was something truly something to behold!  Until next time BBQ nation, signing off Billy the Kid.

A Day at Demetri's

A Day at Demetri's by Captain (Art Richey)

For the last month, this journey of ‘cue has been our life. No matter who we meet or where we go, we are talking about our trip. Students acknowledge their jealousy, professors appreciate our cleverness, and parents smirk at our plans. As our first day approached, we dreamed about where this project could take us. Maybe Taylor Swift would meet us for lunch in Nashville and fall in love with a BBQ boy. What if Paula Deen organized a show just for us. Maybe even Food Network would call with a TV show pitch. As our daydreams imploded and floated back into reality, we discussed ways to spread our story. We figured our story would make it in a couple of newspapers and maybe even the Hilltop News. When ABC 33/40 called with an interest in our story, our dreams inched closer to reality.

Prior to the ABC call, we had planned to “test” our methods of analyzing BBQ at a local BBQ joint. Robin, our advisor, wanted to make sure that her BBQ boys were not being tossed on the road without some experience of observing and understanding a true BBQ joint. We picked Demetri’s in Homewood. We arrived at 11:30, which was early enough to beat the lunch crowd but late enough for the BBQ boys to grab a couple of extra Z’s. As we walked in, Robin encouraged us to use our senses in the observations: How did it smell? How was the restaurant organized? Did you automatically dream of a succulent rib? We took our seat, put down our notepads, and glanced at the menu. Jeff immediately schmoozed with the waitress and explained our project. The face of our waitress tickled with excitement about our project, not Jeff’s attempts at charm. She insisted that she find the owner and explain what we were doing. Sam Nakos introduced himself and begged that we have the wings. You could tell this man loves his job and puts every ounce of energy into his restaurant and its faithful. With a hand on Matt’s back, he explained that he had to get to the kitchen but let him know if we need anything.

ABC 33/40 showed up and began to setup their equipment. We placed our orders (I opted for the pulled pork plate with potato salad and baked beans) and began to prep ourselves for the interview. Will’s nerves began to show on his face as his smirk evolved into tight-lipped smile. As Demetri’s crowd expanded, the Demetri’s faithful could not help but notice the TV crew surrounding a random table of college guys. Sam’s wings arrived mid-interview. When he said his wings were excellent, he was on spot. Your typical wing is deep fried and covered in whatever artificial sauce is presented. Not Sam’s wings. The outside was perfectly charred and the rub was a perfect mix of honey-like sweet and smoke flavor. The interview ended, our food arrived, and we dove in. The pork was covered with this spicy, think tomato sauce. It seemed almost too much sauce for my palate to handle. The baked beans were perfect. It contained shreds of pork, a hint of molasses, and enough smoke flavor to tickle the taste buds. The potato salad highlighted Sam’s Greek Heritage: cold red potatoes covered in oil, vinegar, and Mediterranean spices. I couldn’t finish my plate (we are trying to make it back home without buying bigger pants), but the waitress begged us to sample the pies. We looked at each other and gave in. We couldn’t resist. The lemon pie was a flavor rollercoaster. It started tart, rolled into a light sweetness, and then a perfect mixture of sugar and fresh lemons. I had to get another bite.

Sam came over and asked for our opinions. Thumbs up all around. But he wanted us to experience more. He took us back into the kitchen and explained the mechanics of the pit, the sauce process, and lemon pie recipe. His stories and friendliness demonstrated that he truly loves his life of BBQ. We paid for our meal, thanked Sam, and even grabbed a bottle of sauce as we left. It was a perfect ending to a great day of cue’ and character.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The "Bus Driver"

Upon the groups behalf I would like to welcome you to the 'Southern BBQ Boys' Blog. You along with us, will embark on a journey around the Southeast during the month of January. Please tell your friends, family, and everyone in between about our trip and make sure that they stay updated. We will make posts daily, most of the time even uploading videos to YouTube and putting them on the blog for you to view. As you might already know our group contains four members. We will all be posting on this blog at our own discretion about what ever topic we feel is necessary at the time (and of course it will pertain to Barbecue in some way). I would like to begin my posting by giving a little description of myself, and my history with Barbecue:

Hi. I am the "Bus Driver." I am from Cullman, a rural city in North Alabama. My father is a veterinarian. He is originally from Cullman and has spent most of his life there. My mother is from Bristol, Tennessee. She moved to Alabama after she got married. My mom has fond memories of her relatives cooking a pig over a bonfire during special family get-togethers. My dad loves to cook and has always loved Barbecue. The reason that I chose this Interim is because (1) I know it would be fun! (I mean what other time in my life will I get to go eat and learn about Barbecue for almost a month) and (2) I really wanted to know more about something that has so much history and culture in the society that we are all apart of today.

Look forward to posting again soon!!

Bus Driver

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Our Contract was Approved!

Hey Folks

This is the first of many, many posts for our Birmingham-Southern Interim 2009 Independent Study: "Southern Barbecue 360': A Survey of Southern Barbecue through Food and Travel Writing". I know many family members, friends, 'Southern folks, and BBQ enthusiasts will be following our journey of pork across the South. If you are interested in our contract specifics, feel free to email us and we will send you a list of our academic material and assignments for this study. We are in the process of creating our trip itinerary so if you have any suggestions for your favorite BBQ spots, please let us know. Our journey will consist of the following states: AL, TN, GA, NC, SC (not in that particular order however). Also, if you know any relatives or friends who would be willing to house us, please contact us and we will promise a rack of ribs and good times for those willing to put up with 4 college students for a couple of days.

This trip is not cheap so if your heart (and stomach) calls you to donate or sponsor us on this trip, we would love you, sing for you, and probably come cook for you. We have had a couple of of offers already (If you do sponsor, we will put your name/logo on our shirts while we eat...just like Nascar and John Daly) and we will have YouTube updates frequently so your business/love for a member will be broadcast for the entire world. And yes, we will make it on some major media publication...just watch.

Again, any suggestions or general advice will much appreciated.


BBQ Boys

Art Richey, Matt Lee, Will Foster, Jeff Vaughan