The weather has definitely taken a turn toward fall. You can tell by all the Halloween decorations in the stores. Friday night high school football is back. I think less about a cold beer than I do a soothing Manhattan. And of course, BBQ becomes a rarity. Yes, you can throw some meat on the grill in most types of weather, but the joy loses some of its appeal when you’re wearing long sleeves and thermals.
So I’ll live a bit in the not too distant past and relive some of the Q I shoved down my gullet this summer.
12 Bones – Asheville, North Carolina
I was told this was the “power stop” for BBQ. National and local political types put this place on their tour stops when they want to be among the people. Even Barack Obama visited on while on the campaign trail. I’ll give their campaign staff kudos for at least having good taste. The line is long but moves fast. The staff is friendly.
The baby back special of the day (3 flavors are offered each day) on my stop – blueberry rub. Yes. Blueberry. As in the fruit. But as Johnny Gill would say, my, my, my, my, my-my-my-my.
The smoked potato salad is something out of this world.
Chicago q – Chicago
It’s on Chicago’s Gold Coast so you know it starts out expensive and a little upscale. I mean they serve Kobe beef ribs and brisket. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Anyway, a friend flagged this for me on someone’s Top 10 list of places that handle bacon with a little extra special something. More on that later.
The q was quite respectable. I went traditional and got the baby backs. Nice smoke ring, crust and enough bite on the bone. The house made sauces provided for good pairings if you’re so inclined – mild original, spicy (which is just the original with red pepper flakes), Eastern North Carolina vinegar and South Carolina mustard. I liked mixing and matching the sauces, except the mustard (never been a fan).
I sought out this place for the house bacon cheddar hush puppies. These warm, golf ball-sized puppies had chunks of salty, smokey bacon that made my tongue dance. I’d make a meal out of them any day.
Slows – Detroit
When you ask about BBQ in Detroit, people send you to Slows. They are correct. That’s all you need to know.
Rub BBQ Pub – Detroit
I wager that if you ask people in metro Detroit for a good BBQ recommendation, Rub will come in a close second behind Slows. I went one day for lunch and wanted to go back for dinner. That’s all you need to know.
The Slim Shady is a heaping mound of BBQ chicken topped with a heap of coleslaw on Texas toast. I don’t know if its namesake had anything to do with the sandwich, but he’d do well by saying he did.
Luella’s – Asheville, North Carolina
Luella’s has tons of good stuff to eat, but they keep it simple. Smoke the meat. Don’t get fancy with sauces. Keep a steady supply of homemade sides and fixins.
Ribs, vinegar coleslaw, hush puppies, calico baked beans. What you don’t see are the smoked wings that came in round 2 and the bourbon ice cream that finished me off… after I finished it off.
Keep it simple – ketchup based, vinegar (we are in North Carolina, after all)
Rib Cage – Kalamazoo, Michigan
This trailer is as close to street food as you get in this part of West Michigan – as far as I know, anyway.
I knew I was in the right spot when I walked up to the window to place an order and the owner shoved a plate of freshly made deviled eggs in my face. “Thanks for stopping by. Have one. You’ll love it.” Who was I to refuse such hospitality?
While not the best DE I’ve had, it made for a good first time experience. The ribs, however, are what keep me coming back. This brother has some southern heritage. The meat is smoked to perfection; you can watch them being made in the huge smoker right across from the trailer. These aren’t made the night before and reheated. They are done when they are done. If you’re not around when they come off the grill, then shame on you because they won’t be around long.
I’ve not mastered the schedule yet, so I’ve walked away disappointed on more than one occasion.
But when I hit it right, look out. Nothing else matters. I have tunnel vision. I’ve even started the meal in the car. Yes, I am that guy.
There are no extra sauces. You get the slightly thick, sweet maple or molasses sauce that is a secret family recipe. I don’t know if you can get the ribs dry or not. I don’t care. The sauce doesn’t get in the way. Everything is right as rain, as long as I guess right about the time the ribs come off the grill.