Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In search of good barbecue

If you've not read the Modern Gal's bio, you probably don't know that I spent my formative years in Memphis, which automatically qualifies me as a barbecue snob.

I'm sure y'all are familiar with the Memphis breed of barbecue snobs: only pork qualifies and the sauce is sweet with a tomato base. I guess I could be considered Memphis barbecue snob lite, because I like both wet and dry-rub ribs. Still, anyone who wants to argue with me on what real barbecue is, I ask you first how many World Championship Barbecue contests you've attended.

Anyway, my point isn't to be ornery. My point is this: Every time I move to a new city, I have to establish a relationship with the barbecue scene, and I've yet to do that with Knoxville. Don't tell me Buddy's is the place to go -- Buddy's is fast food NOT real barbecue (though they have amazing oatmeal raisin cookies). Yes, there's Calhoun's, and I give Calhoun's credit for having very good ribs, but their pulled pork is awful.

My Knoxville barbecue bachelorette days have gone on way too long, so I've decided instead to embark on a gastrological journey through Knoxville's barbecue scene to find the crown jewel. I've been asking around town, soliciting suggestions for the best barbecue joints to get an idea of where to start. My friends at the News Sentinel even helped me out with a poll, though it turned out to be useless as the majority picked Buddy's. So Wigshop friends I ask you too: where are the must-eat BBQ joints in our fair city?

In my dedication to spreading the good news of Knoxville, I shall report all of my findings back here at the Wigshop. Let the games begin!

29 comments:

Tennessee Values Authority said...

As a former Memphian (but native East Tennessean), I feel your pain. Good barbecue in Knoxville? Eh... I've taken to just buying a rack of ribs at the farmers' market and smoking them myself, but here are some recommendations that have been made to me. For the most part I've been too lazy or broke to try most of them out, but I'll pass them along to you.

I've heard good things about Dixon's over on Magnolia but I've never had the opportunity to try it.

F.A.T.S over on Whittle Springs has a pretty good sandwich that kind of reminds me of Little Pigs on Highland near the Memphis U. campus. They also have banana pudding.

There used to be a Corky's in Bearden which made me very happy. Few places around here believe in the dry rub. I think there is still one in Pigeon Forge if you get homesick for it.

Ott's out west (is it still open?) used to serve up a Carolina-style bbq. I'm not as keen on the vinegar-style as my Tarheel friends are, but there's a non-Buddy's option.

I've had good recommendations on Scruggs BBQ on Magnolia but haven't yet explored it either.

How's that for starters?

Anonymous said...

I recommend M&M BBQ and Catering on Middlebrook Pike at the red light intersection with Chert Pit Road. I think you will be very happy with their BBQ.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good recommendations here: http://knoxify.com/nbc-news-crew-looking-for-bbq/

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'll second a vote for M&M BBQ and Catering on Middlebrook Pike. People wait in line for that BBQ...it's in a weird spot but apparently worth the wait. I think they are closed on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a BBQ expert by any means, but I really like the BBQ sandwich at Backroom Barbeque (the old Lucille's...attached to Patrick Sullivans).

Anonymous said...

There are a few hole in the wall places in Northeast and East Knoxville that probably qualify. Sadly I don't know names and haven't been to any of them.

The Modern Gal said...

We have a whole herd of anonymooses today!

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Keep 'em coming!

Discordia said...

http://knoxville.chowbaby.com/cuisines/BBQ%20Restaurants

Check it out for a decent list.

ashleystravel said...

Well it is no World Championship, but Blount BBQ Bash is only a few months away. Maybe that will be a poor, but sufficient substitute.

http://www.blountbbqbash.com/

Christa B said...

I know where you are coming from - I lived half my life in Knoxville and the other half in Memphis (back and forth, back and forth - currently back in Memphis now for almost 2 years - was in Knoxville for almost 5 before that. Anyway...) and I have never been able to find good BBQ in Knoxville. I'll be checking the wigshop to see if you find anything! Good luck!

Ron said...

Hey Modern Gal,

I have to recommend Sweet P's http://www.sweetpbbq.com/. They serve lunch at my office complex once a week and their pull pork is excellent! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Mackey said...

Hi Modern Girl, as a west-tn transplant and a 2 time WCB team member at Memphis in May I can honestly say that Knoxville doesn't match up when it comes to bbq joints. I've had some good bbq here, but the real problem is consistancy - you have 1 great meal and return next time to have a disappointing plate of crap. The secret in Knoxville is to dine on Friday or Saturday when you know it will be fresh. Backroom bbq in the Old City has been good the past couple of times I've eaten there. Dixon's, Scruggs, and FATS are pretty good when fresh. I've heard good things about M&M but haven't been there yet. Oddly I'm not that much of a bbq snob and will eat Buddy's, Shane's Rib Shack, etc. because they are convenient and I'm somewhat lazy.

Mickey said...

If you need any company on your quest, let me know!

I've pretty much just been hitting up Calhoun's for ribs when I get the BBQ jones. I never ate ribs much before coming to K-Town, but it seems the most consistently good option.

The pulled pork at Chandler's was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Otts there is no other.

Saul said...

Since Pandora's box has opened. . .

Whether it be good bbq is subjective, but there is only one place in town that leaves a craving in my taste buds to return. Smokehouse BBQ on Asheville highway just down the street from one of the last true drive-in diners.

Side dish specialty is garlic green beans.

Anonymous said...

Try Leo's Pulled Pig in Lenoir City (close enough to Knoxville). Their pulled pork is as good as any I've had around Knoxville.

The Modern Gal said...

Wow, I'm going to have to go into barbecue detox after I make it through this list. I'm definitely going to need help. Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone!

Tennessee Values Authority said...

Saul is absolutely right about Smokehouse BBQ on Asheville Highway and I'm kicking myself for not remembering it. I had a very delicious take-out dinner from there last summer. It is Texas style and the sauces are great. My wife had the brisket and we loved that, too. Definitely a winner for me and I can't believe until Saul reminded me that we haven't been back in such a long while. We don't often end up out there, but I think a spring return is in order.

Dale said...

I echo FATS and M&M. And if you're making your own, get your meat from Benton's Hams in Manchester, TN. It's amazing.

alliecatmar said...

I favor Ott's but it's too far out west. Fat's is good, but the kitchen is sketchy on being clean.
We've been to Abe's in Clarksdale. There is no comparison.

Nate D. said...

I really heart Pup's Pit (takeout, but they have some outdoor picnic tables). It is a largely unknown and completely unappreciated BBQ being run out of a (legal and clean) renovated former garage out on the corner of Walker Springs and Kingston Pike, behind the Shoneys. It's Way Out West, but it's worth it.

Saul said...

@ Tennessee Values Authority.

I think part of the problem is that Smokehouse is in the middle of nowhere and every time I pass it by it's usually after I had already eaten.

However for some reason I can't seem to forget that I really enjoyed it.

I wish I can speak for some of the other places that have been mentioned here. M&M and Ott's seem to have a big following and I've no had the opportunity to try either.

Nate D. said...

I left M&M out because it's gotten so much laud, but they really are the best, hands down. They won MP BoK 2K8 BBQ plaque, last year, too.

Amelia said...

Don't they have a bar-b-q festival every year at World's Fair Park? Maybe there will be some BBQ Knox companies representing there.

The Bouldins said...

If you don't mind heading North, Rickard Ridge is in Cove Lake State Park (exit 134 off I-75). They serve the ribs dry and provide their BBQ sauces at the table. We weren't impressed with the desserts, but the meat was so good that didn't really matter.

I'll be interested to hear what you find out from all the suggestions.

Ron said...

I posted a comment about Sweet P's bbq earlier. I just learned that they will be opening a restaurant at 3725 Maryville Pk at Willow Point Marina in early May. Check is out, the pulled pork is excellent.

The Modern Gal said...

Thanks for the update, Ron. Someone else had recommended Sweet Ps to me, but I had planned to skip it since it was catering-only. I'll be sure to add it to my list.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the Sweet P's suggestion. I had a chance to go to the restaurant this weekend and it was awesome. They offer a barbecue burrito that is out of this world. Everything I had was great.

bretonbound 2012 said...

Sweet P's has gotta get the vote...just opened on Maryville Pike at the old Kiger's marina location...so good I wanted to eat my lips when it was gone...any Buddy's fans out there, go try some of the REAL thing!