Wednesday, March 1, 2006
I've eaten bar-b-que all over the world, and with the exception of some I had in Utah, none of it tasted bad. Bar-b-que starts at good no matter what and goes up to best, whether you spell it barbecue like Merriam and Webster does or bar-b-que like I do. And none of it, not in North Carolina, Kansas City or Texas, beats "Southern style" bar-b-que.
"Swine Dining at Its Finest," the bar-b-que concept that started in Natchez a decade ago, recently made its way to Ridgeland as The Pig Out Inn. Archie and Anne Willett opened their metro location at 6547 Old Canton Road, 601-957-6467, in a spacious, renovated restaurant.
Word quickly spread about the taste and quality of the bar-b-que. Take spare ribs, brisket, Boston butts, chicken, turkey, sausage and even beans, put them on a 16-foot, two-ton smoker with oak wood as the fuel, maintain a temperature just above 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and you've got bar-b-que heaven.
The ribs cook about five hours, the brisket 12-16; the meat and smoke flavor comes through with very little rub in the way. The tender meats are served dry with the tasty sauce (and its secret ingredient, which I guessed but promised not to tell) on the side. The beans, smoked for 12 hours with a touch of mustard seed added, taste beyond ordinary. Corn salad, a side not commonly found in 'que huts, offers a refreshing change from the common fare.
If The Pig Out Inn is the new comer, then Big D's Tepee Bar-B-Q, 601-366-7489, in Pocahontas, is the tried and true bar-b-que joint. Don't worry about a street address in tiny Pocahontas. Just head north on Hwy. 49, turn right across the tracks at the Pocahontas exit onto Main. There you will find the huge tepee, now part of the original restaurant, with parking beside it, between the railroad tracks and the highway.
While Big D himself has been out of the business for about a year, Big T, Terry Vaughn, manages the place now and serves as pit master. He quickly explained to me that with the exception of the expanded restaurant, very little has changed—the quality of the food, and the care and attention to customers remain as Bid D's legacy.
Unique to Big D's is the photo-covered wall. The friendly wait staff will take a photo of you to put there, if you like. I actually saw photos of a couple of people that I haven't seen in years. The tepee and its display of Indian tribal flags, the trains going by so close you can almost touch them (at the rate of 28 a day), and the photos on the wall make the trip worth it, even without the bar-b-que. Just kidding.
Add tasty brisket, ribs, chopped pork and pork loin, and you've got an event, not just a meal. Again, these meats go onto a huge outdoor pit, with hickory wood the fuel of choice. Big D's added pork loin to the menu after Hurricane Katrina disrupted deliveries of regular meats.
The pork tenderloin, done just right, quickly caught on with diners at the teepee where other favorites include the thin-sliced and moist brisket, exceptional chopped pork and top notch ribs. Like at The Pig Out Inn, meats at Big D's come with no rub and the sauce on the side.
Serving bar-b-que this way sits well with easily identified bar-b-que purists. Just watch as their eyes narrow and their hair stands on end when someone behind the counter asks, "Do you want your ribs wet or dry?"
Why don't you grab a bunch of friends and go make a day or night of it at these restaurants. Eat in a tepee for once in your life at one and see if you can guess the secret ingredient in the sauce at the other.
This BBQ was pretty good, corn on the cob is grilled, and the alternatives to fries and tater salad(pasta salad, black bean salsa) are a good change of pace. $7 a plate makes it competitive. Cons: the tea is sort of small if you go through the drive thru, but if you go thru the drive thru you actually get out of there quick.