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