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 www.bigbobgibson.com