It just works

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – Given a brain boost, some expert instructors and a few years, I might someday grasp why Planck’s constant works. But since I have neither the intelligence nor the patience, I muddle through life happy that someone figured out that if h = 6.6262 x 10-34 Joule⋅second so we can measure how the particles that make up the universe move and apply that knowledge to all sorts of practical matters.

By the same token, I’m sure some scientist could explain how the molecules in peanut butter and jelly can combine with a half-ground beef, half-ground bacon hamburger patty to bond with the receptors known as the taste buds to trigger all sorts of pleasurable chemical releases in the human brain. Instead, I’d rather bite into a Peanut Butter and Jellousy at Slater’s 50/50 and let those chemicals wash over my synapses. Continue reading

Posted in Bacon, Burgers | Tagged , | 5 Comments

An ugly condiment’s beautiful cousin

HOMEWOOD, Ala. – On my third visit to Saw’s BBQ, I finally accepted my own hypocrisy. Continue reading

Posted in BBQ, Side Dishes, Sweet Tea, Value | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Pickles and biscuits? Pickles and biscuits.

There is a biscuit bottom under there somewhere.

NEW YORK – A night after a disappointing dinner at a carefully curated, high-concept restaurant, I walked into another carefully curated, high-concept restaurant. Other than their positions on the island of Manhattan – one in the West Village, one on the Upper West Side – Fatty ’Cue and Jacob’s Pickles seemed similar at first glance. Each took comfort-food staples and attempted to elevate them. Each was decorated to evoke a specific feeling. Fatty ’Cue had all its wood; sturdy décor for sturdy meat dishes. Jacob’s Pickles had its bottles lined up by the hundreds behind the bar — as if an interior designer from Manhattan had spent a week or a month in the Mississippi Delta and couldn’t shake the memory.

After a few minutes, it became obvious the places had nothing in common.

Continue reading

Posted in Biscuits, Fried Goodness, Gravy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Quite Lovely’

All yours for $26.

NEW YORK – college football producer Ben Glicksman, who as of this moment has a standing invitation to every forthcoming Heaven Is a Buffet review meal, stared at the raw mustard greens before him like an astronaut examining a moon rock. “What am I supposed to do with the lettuce?” Ben asked.

Unfortunately, I had no acceptable answer.

Continue reading

Posted in BBQ, Fancy Pants | Tagged , | 5 Comments

From jowl to tail

Jowl-y good show.

CHICAGO – Even when I’ve eaten whole hog barbecue, I haven’t really eaten the whole hog. Sure, I’ve eaten snout at Petty’s in Starkville, Miss., but most of my swine dining has come from the popular cuts. Wednesday, I set out to change that. Continue reading

Posted in Fancy Pants, Side Dishes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

My question: Answered

WASHINGTON – Restaurant workers, take a lesson from the hardest working bartender inside the Beltway. When I asked Charles to name the best entrée on the Founding Farmers menu Monday night, he didn’t offer either of the following mealy-mouthed answers. Continue reading

Posted in Bacon, Fancy Pants, Fried Goodness, Side Dishes | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Eating like it’s 1999

ATLANTA – Most Fridays in the summer of 1999, I left the Atlanta Journal-Constitution building, climbed into my Corolla, cranked Outkast’s Aquemini CD and headed for the ATM at the base of the Bank of America skyscraper in Midtown. Once there, I would park illegally, dash to the machine and feed in a $550 check (minus taxes). For a 20-year-old intern, this was eff-you money. After I paid for the lower-loft bed I rented at a Georgia Tech frat house, I blew most of the rest on beer. But most weeks, ten of those dollars went to Eats.

Continue reading

Posted in Value | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The BBQist Manifesto

They may not have gotten brisket before, but they get it now.

CHICAGO – Unwritten rules permeate barbecue culture like post oak smoke permeates a hunk of brisket. Don’t drown the meat in sauce. Use spare ribs instead of babybacks. Never sacrifice attention to the meat for attention to side dishes. Everyone seems to know these rules, but they rarely get codified. The proprietors of Smoque have done just that, issuing a manifesto that records some of these rules while also explaining to Midwesterners unfamiliar with real barbecue exactly why following those rules produces such delicious results.

So does Smoque practice what it preaches? On a breezy June night, I loaded down a platter for a test. Continue reading

Posted in BBQ, Side Dishes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Mad Swine

Location: A dimly lit hotel bar on Madison Avenue.

Don Draper fiddles with something in his drink. Joan Harris, who will soon become Joan Holloway again thanks to the divorce papers she has just been served, looks perplexed.

Joan: Is that…?

Don: Yes. It is.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sauces? We don’t need no stinking sauces.

Love (of pork and bread) is all you need.

DESTIN, Fla. – It takes guts to open a cash-only restaurant with no indoor seating in a place where the temperature routinely hovers between 90 and the fires of hell. It takes even more guts to serve a pulled-pork sandwich completely untouched by sauce.

Continue reading

Posted in BBQ, Sammiches, Sweet Tea | Tagged , , | 1 Comment