On BBQ sauce, T-Tops and biscuit baby daddies

A fried biscuit and a stack of meat. Heaven isn't too far away.

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – When I first came across the website for Squealers Award Winning Barbecue, I worried. Naturally, the name of the place piqued my curiosity. What awards had Squealers won? I clicked a link, and much to my dismay, the first seven awards listed were for sauce.

Here’s the thing about barbecue sauce. It can taste wonderful, but it can hide a lot. A D-battery dipped in the sauce from Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Ala., would taste better than anything on the menu at Applebee’s. Bragging on one’s sauce usually means one of three things.

1) Your rub sucks.

2) You can’t cook the meat properly.

3) Your rub sucks, and you can’t cook the meat properly.

So it was with much trepidation that I drove southwest from Indianapolis. It was a fascinating drive. Never have I so badly wanted to own a Firebird (the one with the actual bird painted on the hood) with T-Tops. Had I rolled down Kentucky Avenue in my Firebird blasting Warrant – rest in peace, Jani Lane – I might have been elected mayor. Alas, I had to settle for my usual rental Pimpala. But this Pimpala had a moon roof. That fact changed my entire perspective on Squealers. From half a mile away, a glorious smell wafted through the open roof of my generic fleet vehicle. It was not by accident that Squealers also had brought home trophies for brisket and ribs. These guys didn’t need to hide anything under sauce.

I walked in excited, and that excitement morphed to sheer, drooling joy when I opened the menu. Aside from the usual smoked fare, Squealers offered a fried ribs appetizer.

If you read my review of S’MAC in New York, you know that the one lesson I want you to take away from this venture is this: There is nothing on earth that can’t be improved by adding a few slabs of bacon. Allow me to add a corollary. There are precious few things in this world that can’t be improved by deep frying. A certain side item at Squealers drove home this point, but it wasn’t the fried ribs. As great as they were – the rub underneath the batter was an exquisite mix of salty and sweet – they paled in comparison to the pair of fried biscuits that came with my three-meat sampler platter.

You read that correctly. Fried. Biscuits. Imagine a Cracker Barrel biscuit met a Krispy Kreme doughnut, dropped a few of his best lines and took her back to his Old Country Store to make doughy carbohydrate love on a Travel Checker Rug. The offspring of that union is what a fried biscuit tastes like.

After the fried ribs and the fried biscuits, Squealers could have served me a plate of smoked cockroaches and I still would have recommended it to my friends. Instead, I received a heaping mound of meat. Brisket sat atop half a slab of babybacks, which sat atop a mound of pulled pork. I couldn’t finish. Anyone who knows me understands that I don’t make that statement lightly.

Squealers nailed the brisket. It was moist but not fatty and rubbed so expertly that it didn’t require a drop of the excellent hot sauce. The pork passed muster as well. As for the babybacks, I should have known better. The bartender told me the babybacks were the best thing on the menu. That’s the only reason I ordered them over the usual spareribs. Someday, I’ll stop making that mistake. Any slappy can throw spareribs – which usually boast a thick layer of fat – on the smoker and allow the meat to baste itself to perfection. Babybacks, which have far less fat, are a high-degree-of-difficulty meat. A pitmaster needs precise temperature control and a watchful eye, or all is lost. The Squealers babybacks weren’t bad, but they weren’t good, either. They merely were.

Not that it mattered. I blacked out after the second fried biscuit. I spent the rest of the night in a Hoosier dream state. There, the T-Tops were always off, the power ballads played on a loop and the biscuits took the doughnuts to family court to fight for the right to visit their flaky little bundles of joy.

Pre-meal workout: Insanity — Max Interval Circuit (No, I don’t look like any of the people in the video. But it is quite reassuring to see someone with zero percent body fat as close to passing out as I am.)

Featured workout tune: Freak of the Week by Marvelous 3


About Andy Staples

Eating anything that doesn't eat me first.
This entry was posted in BBQ, Fried Goodness, Side Dishes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to On BBQ sauce, T-Tops and biscuit baby daddies

  1. relevantedge says:

    I may have to stop following this blog. The fact I’m nowhere near any of these BBQ spots you’re writing about is absolutely killing me…and making me really hungry.

  2. Excellent stuff, Andy. I’m impressed. Always great when I find someone in the sports journalism field with a great food interest…especially BBQ! For me I feel like CollegeSportsInfo.com is actually my hobby and my food site, http://www.foodsherpas.com as my career! I’ll be retweeting your culinary masterpiece on that site today! Gonna have to try that deep fried delicacy pronto.

  3. Evan says:

    Enjoying this blog quite a bit. As an aside to your sauce analysis, my biggest pet peeve is when I go to a bbq restaurant and they don’t match the sauces up with the right meat. For example, I’ve been to far too many places that pair an eastern NC sauce with chicken instead of pulled or (better yet) chopped pork. Similarly, I been to places that make a decent Alabama white sauce, but put it on pork or even (dare I say) brisket, instead of chicken. Generally these places make decent bbq (I live in Denver now, where good bbq is tough to find but is available; in my previously life I lived in Durham, NC, where finding the good stuff is almost too easy; the sauce confusion is in Denver) so I have to wonder how they can be so clueless on the sauce-meat combinations?

  4. Nice read – now I need to go make some ribs. I grew up in Tennessee where you could find great q at any roadside shack. I moved to great food cities, but none with decent q (New Orleans, San Francisco and New York). When my wife and I moved to Charlottesville, VA, I thought, back to the south, back to the q, but alas, Virginia is woefully lacking in good reliable q. If you have any suggestions in this state, I’d love to know (or DC for that matter).

  5. Greg says:

    Andy – This is great work. I’m a follower on SI and now am surely a follower of your food habits! Already you’ve profiled 3 of my favorite joints – the two delis in Ann Arbor (my alma mater – and I am a Zinger’man) and S’Mac (located two blocks from my apartment)! Just wanted to pop a note of support for this blog, and also give a couple recommendations on restaurants that have recently blown my mind – Oklahoma Joes on the KS side of Kansas City (get the Z-man), Rustic Inn in South Florida (must get the garlic crabs). Keep up the good work!

    • Andy Staples says:

      Been to Oklahoma Joe’s — which has great food but plays up the gas station angle a bit too much. It’s more like a restaurant with a gas station in it than a gas station with a restaurant in it. Have not tried Rustic Inn, but I will check it out.

  6. Edmund says:

    So Andy, I’m intrigued by your theory about bragging on one’s sauce to cover up other BBQ deficiencies. I haven’t been to the Dreamland shack in about 20 years – before my BBQ palate was as finely honed as it is today. As I was a huge fan of Dreamland back in the day (just the one in Tuscaloosa – I’m skeptical of the others), what do you think they are hiding with their sauce and was I a fool in my BBQ naivete back in the day?

  7. bobestes says:

    Wow. Moderately surprised you found good brisket up in ohio/indiana. I’ve been looking (cincinnati) for 3 years and haven’t found anything worth a damn.

  8. Pingback: Heaven Is A Buffet

  9. Finsterbaby says:

    “Imagine a Cracker Barrel biscuit met a Krispy Kreme doughnut, dropped a few of his best lines and took her back to his Old Country Store to make doughy carbohydrate love on a Travel Checker Rug” A.S.

    I’d appreciate it if you could insert footnotes when you use my dreams in your blog…great column and relevantedge is right – this column is a tough read when you’re hungry!

  10. Tom says:

    Hey, I clicked on the link in your tweet and got here, but I see nothing about Kreuz. Being an Austinite, I assume you’re referring to Kreuz Market in Lockhart? I prefer Smitty’s myself…

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