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.