Category Archives: BBQ Tour

Cheap Eats in Istanbul

turkeyWe had heard from an acquaintance that there was no good cheap food in Istanbul. That could not be less true! Much like Rome, there are a lot of tourist trap places with overpriced low-quality menus, aiming to make a buck on tired tourists by providing sub-par food. However, on the whole, we probably had better luck finding good, cheap food in Istanbul than Rome. One such example of the good options available is Melekler (113 Ipek Sok, off Küçük Parmakkapi Sok). Located in the bustling Taksim district of Istanbul, this place is blink-and-you’ll miss it small. However, the enticing menu of BBQed meats keeps it pretty packed.
M ordered a plate of Spicy Urfa kebabs, delicious grilled pita and roasted tomatoes. As you can see above, the portions were more than generous. L had a broiled chicken durum wrap that was even cheaper! Durum flatbread wraps are the specialty of the house here, and are definitely worth a try. Dinner was less than 12 Lira, and the tasty BBQ spread certainly fed the two of us. Melekler is open for lunch and dinner –  cash only (though you won’t need to bring much). If you are looking for another quick place for a cheap eats even closer to the touristic center, we also recommend Sultanahmet Köftecisi (Divanyolu Caddesi 12A, Sultanahmet) for amazing, cheap quick kebabs right in the heart of town.

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Crash Course in Regional BBQ Sauces at Lillie’s Q

Our favorite part about Lillie’s Q (1856 W. North Avenue, Chicago) is their impressive selection of regional BBQ sauces at every table: six at last count, each representing a distinct BBQ region. Sampling all of the sauces at Lillie’s Q is like taking a crash course of all the major BBQ sauces in the US (for context, check out this BBQ map graphic we previously posted). As you travel from region to region, what is called “Barbecue Sauce” varies wildly, and trying them all is half the fun. If you haven’t visited Lillie’s Q yet, here’s what to expect on your whirlwind tour of US Barbecue.

Lillie's Q Sauces

Lillie’s Q Sauce Selection

  • Carolina Gold – Yellow, mustard-based sauces are typically found in South Carolina, thanks to the influence of German immigrants. This is probably our favorite kind of BBQ sauce, no doubt because we first cut our BBQ teeth in South Carolina. People used to North Carolina sauces will find South Carolina’s specialty to be nothing short of sacrilege, but we absolutely love it. This rendition was pretty good!
  • Carolina – As NC and SC continue to debate which is the real “Carolina,” North Carolina has a friendly debate of its own: whether western (“Lexington” style”) or eastern North Carolina barbecue should reign supreme (the North Carolina general assembly actually proposed a series of bills to resolve this debate). What Lillie’s calls “Carolina” sauce is typically associated with western North Carolina. Perhaps Lillie’s is taking a bit of a stand here by referring to the sauce only as Carolina, but perhaps they are also speaking to how this sauce is most commonly associated with NC BBQ outside of its home state. Typically used only on pork shoulder (the basis of Lexington style), this is a thin, vinegar-y sauce with some tomato and pepper flavor, it carries a little sweetness, but is overall tangier than other sauces.
  • E.N.C. (Eastern North Carolina) – Again speaking to an important regional divide, Eastern NC BBQ utilizes the whole hog, and its sauce differs from Lexington style on the tomato-base: E.N.C. sauce has none. This is the thinnest and tangiest sauce – pure vinegar and spice – without the sweetness of other sauces.
  • Smoky – A sweet, thick tomato-based sauce with a lot of smoke flavor, Lillie’s bills this as a Memphis-style sauce, and it shares many similarities with Kansas City BBQ sauces. It is the most popular sauce at the restaurant, and is probably the most familiar kind of sauce to the Chicago palate.
  • Hot Smoky – The same Smoky sauce with a slight Cayenne Pepper kick, but not too much at all.
  • Ivory– This mayonnaise-based white sauce was a particularly unusual option, and one we have never seen in Chicago before. Unknown to many outsiders, it is most commonly found in Alabama (especially northern Alabama), and is commonly used to dress barbecued chicken. It tastes somewhat like a thin ranch dressing, but with fewer spices. Lillie’s also encourages you to use this one as a dip for fries.

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Braai, National BBQ Pastime of South Africa

South Africa FlagThough in the United States BBQ may seem as American apple pie, it has a special place in the national consciousness of many countries, none more so than in South Africa. Braai (rhymes with “cry”) literally means “barbecue” or “grill” in Afrikaans, and is a venerable tradition among all South Africans. South Africa even has a national Braai Day, September 24th of every year. While braai refers to the grill, which is almost always wood or charcoal (sorry, no propane here!), it also refers to the event itself, much like barbecue does in the US. A real braai typically includes a heap of meat, a wood grill, icy cold beverage and large group of friends. For the newbie, here’s some braai advice from the king of Braai in South Africa.

Boerwoers on the Braai

Boerewors on the Braai by André van Rooyen

So what do you bring to a braai? The answer is, predictably: it depends, but it seems like nearly anything goes. Though you may grill anything from kebabs to chicken, steaks, fish (in coastal areas); something quintessentially South African is boerewors. Boerewors are a type of spiced beef (sometimes mixed with pork) sausage that is native to South Africa, and is typically found in a coil formation, as seen above. If you find yourself in Wisconsin on Braai Day you can even find South African-style Boerwoers in MilwaukeeOr for the intrepid, make your own boerewors from scratch.

Sosaties on the Braai

Sosaties on the Braai by MacDara Conroy

Never fear though, even if you don’t have boerewors, you can still have a perfectly respectable braai. Sosaties, or grilled kebabs, usually made with lamb, are a favorite choice for a braai. Another classic non-meat braai dish is pap, a sort of South African polenta made with cornmeal. Yuppiechef has a nice version of Stywe pap with a tomato relish. For more inspiration, Cook Sister has a great description of Braai culture, as well as a great roundup of recipes, both classic and modern. Summer is still going strong, and we are looking forward to adding some Braai flavor to our next barbecue.


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Carolina Ribs at 12 Bones Smokehouse

12 Bones
5 Riverside Drive
Asheville, NC

Once, M didn’t like BBQ ribs. Too many experiences with gristly, fatty, underwhelming spares and baby backs had led him to a life filled with pulled pork and brisket. Not that he was complaining – these are meals for the gods. But on a drive through Asheville, we decided to give ribs one more chance, at a widely praised smokehouse by the Asheville riverfront. A long story short: M likes ribs now. Loves ribs. Craves them. A slab of six ribs at 12 Bones (and nothing else, mind you) single-handedly changed his barbecue life. 12Bones Like any good rib place, 12 Bones does not give you much time: open only 11-4 on weekdays (or until the food runs out, whichever is first), by the time we arrived at 10:30 there was already a line. We were lucky to be early: there were multiple rub glazes to pick, and at the last minute, knowing the ribs were famous, M decided to opt for a standard 6-bones rack of brown sugar glaze. Among other potential choices was pineapple habanero, but we felt that could have been getting a little too playful if we wanted to get something traditional for our first time. 12BonesRibs There is something primordial about a rack of ribs that come out on an aluminum plate. No sides, no nothing else. And they did not need anything: the rack of ribs in the background of this photo were easily the best we have ever had – just amazing. Perfectly smoked, all the fat had melted away, leaving behind perfectly tender, well-seasoned, and artfully glazed rack of certified culinary cavemanliness. Extra points for the fun outdoor seating area! Meanwhile, as M was salivating over his rib plate, L was busy on her usual: pulled pork. It was good, but not memorable in comparison to the ribs. A solid, light smoke flavor with a sweet North Carolina vinegar sauce made for a worthy contribution to our meal. Between us, we split cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and cucumber salad as sides. But again, the star here is the ribs: if you have a chance to stop in Asheville, definitely pay a visit to 12 Bones.

A side note: while in Asheville, be sure to check out the city’s riverfront arts and antiques district! There is something about BBQ in North Carolina that attracts it to art. Where else can you find an 1960s Illinois Democratic Party pin for a dollar?

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South Carolina Barbecue at Melvin’s in Mount Pleasant

925 Houston Northcutt Blvd.
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

Every year or two we take a family trip to Charleston, South Carolina, and one of our chief goals is to eat as much Barbecue as humanly possible. This year our trip was curtailed due to graduation, but we still managed to get a little BBQ in during our short stay. Sadly, we were unable to make it out to Sweatman’s in distant Holly Hill, one of our favorite ‘Que places in the world. However, we found some BBQ joints closer to where we were staying, including Melvin’s. Melvin’s is part of South Carolina barbecue royalty, the Bessigner family, which has been running restaurants in the area for the better part of the century. We felt we had been spoiled by Sweatman’s amazing Mustard sauce, though we hear they have changed owners since our last visit.


Don’t let the location of Melvin’s in the outlot of a stripmall deter you. The restaurant may look a little too new, and perhaps even touristy, but the turnover is high meaning fresh food, and the smoker is legit. The menu at Melvin’s is surprisingly extensive, with chicken, pulled pork, brisket and pork ribs, sandwiches, platters and even burgers. The specialties are ribs and chicken, but we had to order our old standby, a pulled pork platter (which happened to be on special that day). We also tried some of the ribs and chicken ordered by the rest of the family, which are the restaurant’s specialties.


We judge pulled pork on how soon we reach for the sauce after sampling the meat. Good pulled pork should be able to stand on its own, without being doused in sauce. We thought the pulled pork at Melvin’s was excellent – it had tender meat, good moisture, but not too fatty, and a pleasant smoke flavor. The meat itself does not come with sauce – it is provided on the table – you have a choice of iconic South Carolina mustard sauce or a sweeter tomato-based vinegar sauce. We tried a little of each, but we had to go with the signature mustard sauce. However, we pretty much sopped up everything with the delicious golden mustard sauce which was the perfect mix of tangy, spicy and sweet. 


There was a wide array of side dishes but we went with our favorites again: macaroni and cheese and corn bread. Sadly, the mac and cheese was very disappointing: a complete mush with very little cheese. The cornbread fared better on our rating scale, but the Que was definitely the star. The ribs we sampled were also very tasty, if a little dry, we preferred the pulled pork. Our drink of choice, was of course, sweet tea, though we also ordered an unconventional-for-a-barbecue-place Oreo milkshake ($3.99 for a large). And as always, we had to splurge for some banana pudding for dessert! We were also pleasantly surprised that all of the sauces were for sale at surprisingly cheap prices, so we bought some mustard-based sauce to take home. Overall, Melvin’s is a great go-to South Carolina BBQ spot with some excellent mustard sauce in a convenient location. We still miss Sweatman’s but it helped ease the pain a little.

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Happy Barbecue Week at ETW!

At home and abroad, finding great barbecue is one of our true passions. Cooking meats low and slow over a flame with various seasonings is a worldwide tradition, and we are excited to celebrate it this week as we highlight some of our favorite barbecue food finds from both the US and around the world. We recently picked up a new cookbook/guide, Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, which has really made us hungry to try some more recipes in our own kitchen (no smoker yet, sadly). The book by Chris Lilly (pitmaster at the Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama) is one of the coolest, most informative books we’ve read in a while. If you’re interested in learning the techniques of US BBQ, we highly recommend it. Of course, in the US, BBQ certainly doesn’t mean one single thing, and every region has their own unique take. Check out this infographic for a cheat sheet to the major BBQ regions, and get ready for ETW BBQ week.
Regional BBQ Sauce Guide

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Happy 4th of July (and Chicago BBQ)

Barbeque sign

Barbeque sign in Bryson City, North Carolina, by Eric Fink

Happy 4th of July! A classic American 4th of July means barbecue, so we are excited to share a few new Chicago BBQ-related links for those in our neck of the woods. First and foremost, the Serious Eats ranking of the best pulled pork in Chicago. Lillie’s Q comes out on top, and our perennial favorite Smoque comes in 2nd place. Chicagoist has their own recent roundups of the top BBQ overall in Chicago. For something a little different, Time Out Chicago dishes on their pick for the best new BBQ joint in Chicago, Bub City.

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Texan BBQ in São Paulo

brazilWe have often said that one of the things we miss most when we are in Brazil is American Barbecue.  However, we have just learned about an American BBQ joint in São Paulo, BOS Barbecue (Rua Pedroso Alvarenga, 559, Itaim Bibi, São Paulo). BOS BBQ is run by a team of Texans and Brazilians, and there is even reported to have the first American BBQ pit in all of meat-obsessed Brazil. BOS specializes in ribs and pulled pork and has several varieties of BBQ sauce to choose from (Espresso, Honey and Classic). First macarons and now BBQ – we could definitely live in São Paulo! Here is a complete review of BOS BBQ in Portuguese.


The Interior of BOS BBQ

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BBQ: Black Dog Smoke and Ale House

Black Dog Smoke & Ale House
201 North Broadway Avenue
Urbana, IL

You know we love us some BBQ – and we’ve tried to explore all of the options in Chicago – sometimes even venturing into the heart of BBQ country in the south. However, sometimes you can find BBQ in unexpected places – like central Illinois. In an unsuspecting building, this little restaurant is turning out some excellent Que. Black Dog BBQ is almost always packed – even at 9 PM on a Sunday – you put in your number with the host, who on this particular night was the owner of the restaurant. When we arrived, there was about a half an hour wait for a table or booth in the narrow restaurant.

The menu contains BBQ classics like brisket, ribs and pulled pork, as well as burgers and even some vegetarian items. We were also excited to see catfish and burnt ends on the menu. Yum. For each of the BBQ dishes, You have the option of getting either a sandwich ($7.95-8.95) with one side or a platter with two sides ($10.95-12.95). The special on Sunday was a little taste of New Orleans, a Muffaletta Sandwich $8.95. Sides included pit beans, slaw, fries, and sweet potato fries [!!!] among others, however there was no mac and cheese [tsk, tsk]. For our plates we upgraded to sweet potato fries for an extra 50 cents and that was well worth it. The house barbecue sauce is a slightly-spicy Carolina red sauce but there are other options:

  • Georgia Peach, sweet & mild
  • Texas Sauce, mild w/ancho peppers & brisket drippings
  • Carolina Vinegar, traditional w/vinegar, peppers salt & sugar
  • Milo’s Mustard Sauce
  • Hot Georgia Peach, hot & sweet
  • Chipotle, hot & smoky

We ordered a piece of Blackdog Cornbread ($2.95) which contained green chiles, cheese and pulled pork. The cornbread was good, but perhaps a little over-full with mix-ins. The pulled pork was excellent and tender, but not too fatty and the Carolina sauce had a nice vinegary flavor with some zing. M opted for a pulled pork platter with Texas sauce, and thoroughly enjoyed the slight ancho kick. However, we noticed that the platter didn’t actually seem to have any more meat than the sandwich – so keep that in mind when ordering. We are pleased to report that Black Dog has some of the best BBQ we have had recently, full stop, and it is hands-down the best BBQ in the Champaign-Urbana area. When visiting the University of Illinois we now have a new go-to place, that is if we can get a table.

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Koreatown LA: Chuncheon Dakgalbi [now Stone Grill]

koreaChuncheon Dakgalbi [Same location, now called Stone Grill]

703 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005

Though we consider ourselves open-minded eater, we have not had good luck with Korean food, so we had kind of crossed it off of our list of “try-again” cuisines. Fortunately our fortunes have turned and we were introduced to some amazing Korean food on our Californian adventure. Our friend K lives in K-Town in LA, known to have some of the best Korean food anywhere, so we were excited to try one of her picks for Korean BBQ.

The sign outside the restaurant proclaimed “Chicken Kalbi” – in pink neon – which was a good sign for us since we love love places that specialize in a single dish. With this auspicious beginning we embarked on our chicken kalbi adventure. This restaurant itself was pretty trippy, and looked more like a nightclub. It has glossy black walls and, I kid you not, multicolored disco strobe lights. The music playing throughout the night was just as eclectic – a mix of K-Pop, Taylor Swift and Michael Buble (whatever!)

When we were greeted upon entry – the server proclaimed she needed to find the English menu – which, humorously enough, did not even contain any English. Our friendly English-speaking server was very helpful, walking us through the Kalbi process. We ordered 2 orders of the regular Kalbi and one order of the “fire chicken” especially for M, who is, as we know, a fire-breather. As is the tradition in most restaurants specializing in Kalbi, the dish was cooked in a giant hot plate right on the table in front of us. It also came with a small assortment of banchan (side dishes), including radish wraps, cole slaw and seaweed.

M proclaimed that the fire chicken was one of the best spicy dishes he had ever had (but of course it was not TOO spicy). The “regular” chicken kalbi was also stellar, and the sauce was a perfect mix of sweet and spice, and came cooked with scallions sweet potatoes and rice cakes. After the meal was (mostly) over – the ends of the kalbi were mixed into fried rice right in the hot plate by our server. After the meal was completely over we got a tiny cup of tangy frozen yogurt (a la red mango). We were definitely impressed with our meal, and were completely stuffed. With our LA experience we officially re-introduced Korean food into our cuisine rotation.

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Hong Kong: Sun Wah BBQ

Sun Wah BBQ
5039 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL

When you see a restaurant with whole roast ducks hanging in the window you know you’re in for some good food. The updated Sun Wah space is a veritable palace of meat, with Peking duck window-dressing and a freakishly large menu pushing everything from Chilean Sea Bass to Pig Intestine. Upon entry there was already a massive queue in front of the takeout counter, but ample space to sit down inside.

You know you will be getting huge quantities of meat at Sun Wah, but the prices are even more killer. There is an entire page of meat combos that provide you with a choice of two of the following: duck/pork/beef/chicken with various sauce permutations on top of a mountain of rice. To start out with we ordered a bowl of Hot n Sour Soup ($4.25). The bowl was gargantuan and arrived in barely a few minutes. In quick succession the rest of our meals arrived: Salt and Pepper Chicken and BBQ Pork ($5), Roast Pork and BBQ Chicken ($5), BBQ Duck ($5).

The salt and pepper chicken was unfortunately a little “mystery” for us and contained what looked like a quarter of a chicken hacked into cubes, bones and all. The pork dishes were more successful, and the roast pork had a delicate flavor while the BBQ packed a sweet and sour punch. The duck came with a generous portion and was absolutely roasted to perfection.

One warning though: come for the food – but hang on to your plates. Before we got to shovel in even half of the hot and sour soup – it was unceremoniously removed from our table by the waitress who did not seem to respond to our desperate cries of “WAIT.” Even sans soup we still ended up with another full meal out of our leftovers. We were totally impressed by Sun Wah, the food was amazing, at any price, but seriously, hang on to your plates!

Sun Wah by

Sun Wah by VXLA

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BBQ Tour: Mark’s Feed Store in Louisville

Mark’s Feed Store
1514 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205

The last leg of our BBQ tour was a stretch from Nashville to Chicago. We rolled into Louisville a little before lunchtime, and we were looking for something to tide us over before we hit Indiana. We had read good reviews about Mark’s Feed Store, and being unfamiliar with Kentucky, we decided to give it a try. The building that houses the restaurant did indeed formerly house a feed store, and is quite an interesting structure, with exposed rafters and a hand-painted sign on he weathered brick exterior.

Turns out Mark’s is a mini-chain in the Kentucky area. Mark’s slightly glossy and carefully appointed interior (think Fridays, but with BBQ) was a bit of a change of pace for us, and we were a little disappointed when we found out that they did not in fact smoke the meat in house. We decided to give the place a chance however, since we were facing 200 miles of nothing but fast food chains ahead. The confluence of motorcycles parked in the lot, gave us an additional glimmer of hope.

The BBQ was Kentucky style, with a vinegar and tomato based sauce. The main protein in Kentucky BBQ pork, so we both ordered pulled pork sandwiches ($6.99) which came with a side of fries. The pork was tender, but a little dry. Fortunately the table was well stocked with sauce bottles, which we slathered onto our sandwiches (that’s where the roll of paper towels at the table also came in handy). In addition to the basic “red” tomato and vinegar-based BBQ sauce, there was also a spicy variety, and a half-mustard and half-tomato sauce. After Sweatman’s we weren’t impressed by the mustard sauce, but M, being a fan of hot foods enjoyed the spicy variety.


Though in the end, this probably isn’t the most authentic place to get some que, we enjoyed our meal at Mark’s Feed Store. It would probably be a very good place to take guests or people who are not up for some of the more rustic joints we visited along the way. As we took our extra-big gulp of sweet tea on the road we bid our BBQ tour farewell. It was a great ride.

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BBQ Tour: Sweatman’s

1313 Gemini DR
Holly Hill, SC

We will readily admit that we really only found out about Sweatman’s because Anthony Bourdain told us to go there. But that doesn’t mean the trip was any less difficult – literally half an hour from anything, Sweatman’s BBQ lies at an almost un-findable intersection in backcountry South Carolina. Even if you manage to find the place, it is only open Fridays and Saturdays. We had to make a very special trip – an extra few hours of driving from Charleston – just to get there. And it was worth every minute.

SwtMSandwichSweatman’s makes its home in a large wooden cabin, attached to an equally large barbecue smoker. That fact should be a dead giveaway as to how the place operates: for two days each week, ten hours a day, Sweatman’s pumps out huge amounts of perfectly smoked pork – and only pork – drizzled with its famous mustard-based barbecue sauce (central South Carolina’s specialty). As a result, Sweatman’s can be packed during peak hours, with patrons coming from all over the state (much like us) for a generous BBQ helping. The service speeds this along: one dry-erase menu gives the limited options (sandwich or buffet, both pork and both with mustard sauce) to a fast-moving line of customers, whose orders are rung up on an aging cash register. L ordered a pork sandwich, M the buffet. For dessert, a cup of the famous banana pudding – described elsewhere as the “best 63 cents you can spend,” its creamy goodness definitely lived up to the hype.SwtMBPuddingAnd so did the barbecue. Generally, when one place receives almost universally positive reviews, as Sweatman’s does, you almost have to be skeptical. Were we being set up for disappointment? We hoped not – and decided to see if Sweatman’s famous pulled pork stood up to reviews. Suffice to say the lines are for a reason. The barbecued pork by itself, both for the buffet and the sandwich, was impressively lean and fresh. It managed to be filling without being heavy, and lean without being dry.

Sweatman’s mustard sauce is definitely different than our previous narrow perceptions of a BBQ sauce – it was shockingly bright yellow and packed a mouth-puckering mustard and vinegar punch.  The extra mustard sauce we picked up was probably not needed, but was definitely a welcome addition poured over the barbecue when we went back for (free!) second helpings. All washed down with a free cup of sweet tea, this was a South Carolina meal at its finest. Satiated and full after an hour of eating, we left the packed dining hall and walked to the carry-out entrance (equally packed with clients) to pick up some of the mustard sauce for the trip home. It stays good forever, and L and I are still using it bit by bit on chicken, pork, and whatever else strikes our fancy.


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BBQ Tour: Old Plantation BBQ

Old Plantation BBQ
1515 Dodson Ave
Chattanooga, TN

Old Plantation has all the makings of being a good place for BBQ – an off-the beaten path location, billowing smoke rising from the smoker and a crowd, even on off hours. We stopped at Old Plantation on our way back to Chicago, after breezing through Georgia. Old Plantation is located a bit off the beaten path from the city center of Chattanooga, but the tiny wooden building stands out due to its blue exterior.
Inside, there isn’t much room for more than a counter to order at and a flattop stove. Lucky for us the line wasn’t too long, and neither was the wait. We took the time to peruse the menu, which included Pork or Beef shoulder sandwiches ($6.00) and even Barbecue nachos ($6.00) and hot dogs ($4.00). You could even order the Que by the pound, which speaks to its cult following. M and I shared a shared a pork shoulder platter ($9.00). However the awesome BBQmaster behind the counter gave us two rolls admonishing M to “not let her eat it all.” The platter came with two sides – a tangy housemade cole slaw and a heaping helping of baked beans.
OldPBBQThere was no seating available at the picnic tables outside, so we set off on the road, eventually stopping to eat at the UT-Chattanooga campus, which was nicely set up on a hill. We found a bench and dug into our platter. The BBQ was a tangy Memphis-style, with a nice kick of spice. t was thicker and richer than other sauces we had tried, and it was so good we ended up sopping every drop up with our bread. However, we were divided on the chopped pork. When they said chopped pork they meant it -everything comes right along with the meat: fat, cartilage and all. While I know that’s what one should expect from chopped pork, I had been spoiled by the lean pulled pork on the rest of the trip, though M did not seem to mind. One thing we regret though – was missing getting a bottle of BBQ sauce to take home with us.

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BBQ Tour: Zunzi’s South African eats

South Africa Flag Zunzi’s
108 E York St
Savannah, GA

Throughout our eating adventures we hadn’t yet come across a South African restaurant, so it serendipitous that we found Zunzi’s, a South African lunch spot in Savannah, whilst on our prolific BBQ tour. Zunzi’s is tucked into a cute brick building in a quiet street of Savannah (which is a pretty cute place full of cute brick buildings). Tired and sweaty traveler be forewarned, though, Zunzi’s is only a stand-up counter, so you have to take your food to go or eat it outside on the patio.

zunextInside, Zunzi’s is  barely bigger than a breadbox, though there is just enough room for the extensive menu to be written above the counter. The menu boasted a variety of South African-inspired favorites like a Boerewors sausage sandwich (5.95) and an assortment of salads and entrees, with a special section dedicated to vegetarian options. M ordered the Old Indian town Curry Curry Stew (7.50), influenced by the sizable South Asian population in South Africa, while I opted for the Conquistador Roast Chicken Sandwich (7.50), an admittedly more Americanized choice. When our food arrived we were absolutely shocked by the portions, each was big enough for 2 hungry eaters (and we were). Take a look at that curry!  M enjoyed the hearty pea, carrot and potato curry, though it might have been a little mild for his fire-breathing tastes. My chicken sandwich was basically the size of a whole baguette, as you can see below, and was completely overstuffed with fresh roasted chicken. I especially liked the 2 mystery dips on the side – one was a riff on a tangy thousand island, and other was a creamy garlic sauce.zunchik

Even though it was sweltering outside, we decided to rest our feet at the outside patio, which was decked out with rainbow umbrellas. We were joined by an array of lunching Savannah College of Art and Design summer school students, also enjoying some midday nosh. With the breeze, despite the Georgian heat, it made for a quite pleasant lunch al fresco. We can definitely understand who they attracted a bustling lunch crowd. The first question we were asked when we relayed our daytrip to Savannah was if we visited Paula Deen’s restaurant – well, we saw the building – but give us the gut-busting portions at Zunzi’s any day.zuncur

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BBQ Tour: Gullah Grub in the Sea Islands

GullahFlag-173x132Gullah Grub
877 Sea Island Parkway (Route. 21)
Saint Helena Island, SC

We spent one of our first days in SC visiting the Penn Center, a Gullah museum and research center dedicated to the African-American populations of the coastal lowcountry. The Gullah cultivated a unique culture with a distinct language, and of course a distinct cuisine, so we figured if we were in Gullah country we should definitely try some Gullah food.


Gullah Grub is located in an old wooden house on a somewhat busy road, right before the turnoff that leads you further out to sea (and the Penn Center). There’s no AC, but the place managed to stay relatively cool, courtesy of overhead fans working double time. As we entered we were greeted to a cozy interior dotted with knickknacks and mismatched tables and chairs – reminiscent of the living room of a southern Grandma. Perhaps best of all, as soon as we sat down, a plate of free cornbread (and excellent cornbread at that) was plunked down in front of us. Both of us ordered Sweet Tea ($2) to accompany our lunches, which came served in Mason jars with unlimited refills.

GGBBQThe menu consisted of mainly Southern favorites. Fried chicken and BBQ ribs seemed to be popular choices, but the menu boasted some more unusual items as well, including a fried shark-n-shrimp dinner ($17.50). Sharks are not uncommon in these coastal parts, we suppose.  Not in the mood for shark, L ordered the BBQ Chicken ($8.50). It came with a side of potato salad and a generous slathering of red, vinegary Carolina -style sauce. Despite the heat, M was feeling the soup, and he asked our waiter if he would recommend either the gumbo or the She Crab Soup. He replied that “Well, they are both good, but the gumbo is healthier.” M therefore, made a beeline for the she-crab soup ($6 for a medium bowl/$9 for a large). True to our waiter’s word, the She Crab soup was creamy, filling and delicious.

We had heard that the service was especially slow, however, our meal moved along at a good pace, even with a big party table ordering right ahead of us. The vibe of our late lunch was laid back and friendly, the food was good and this was the only place we’ve ever actually had drinks out of jelly jars. Eating in the little wooden house, sipping on Sweet Tea, we felt completely transported.

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BBQTour2K9 Kickoff

On our roadtrip through the south, we made lots of fine foodie stops along the way. It probably shouldn’t properly called a BBQ tour since we ended up sampling lots of other tasty, non-slow-cooked or sauced treats as well, from pizza to seafood. But BBQTour2K9 had such a nice ring to it, we couldn’t resist. So don’t be surprised if some of our BBQ finds…aren’t really BBQ. Reagrdless of cuisine, join us on our trip through Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia!

Here’s a Roadmap of what we have in store

  • Sweatman’s, Holly Hill, SC
  • Gullah Grub, Saint Helena Island, SC
  • Kudu Coffee House, Charleston, SC
  • Old Plantation BBQ, Chattanooga, TN
  • Zunzi’s, Savannah, GA
  • Mark’s Feed Store, Louisville, KY
  • Hudson’s, Hilton Head Island, SC
  • Pizza Palace, Knoxville, TN
  • Nice N Natural, Columbia, SC

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Southern US: Smoque

3800 N. Pulaski
Chicago, IL

So obviously, the ‘south’ is not a country, but it does have a rich culinary tradition of its own, so we’re comfortable including it on ETW. Well, mostly because it’s a darn tasty cuisine. Our latest adventure into Southern Foodways is Smoque Barbecue. Smoque has gotten a lot of press, so we went in with some skepticism. Could it really be as good as all this hype? Short answer = yes. We arrived at 11 AM on a Saturday, right when Smoque was opening. We could tell that they did a brisk takeout service, from the fact that there was already a line, and someone had called in an order of 20+ sandwiches to go.


The menu itself is probably what you would expect from a BBQ place – the choices of meat are Pulled Pork, Brisket, Chicken and Texas sausage (which they began to make this Summer). They also have 2 types of ribs: Baby back and St. Louis. What was interesting though was that you could order small side orders or some of the meats – so if you felt like sampling something, but didn’t want a whole sandwich or a platter you can do it for $3. A ‘taste’ 1/4 slab of ribs is $4.

For lunch we opted for a Pulled Pork Sandwich platter ($8.95) and Sliced Brisket sandwich platter ($8.95). Each of these came with one side as well as homemade cole slaw. Interestingly, even for a take-in order, though there is some sauce on the sandwich, it isn’t slathered, and the order comes with a cup of the BBQ sauce came on the side. At first we were skeptical, but it makes a lot of sense since then you can add as much as you want and the roll doesn’t fall to mush. In the end we ended up using most of the cup anyway, since Smoque’s stock in trade is its peppery, vinegary, yet semi-sweet BBQ sauce. Delicious – not too too sweet, but not to vinegary either, I don’t know what they do, but they’re doing it right.


Onto the sandwiches – both were amazing. As you can see, the portions were generous. One of our sides was baked beans – which were excellent – turns out that they cook them in with the meat and BBQ scraps – so they have some nice smoky flavor. The mac and cheese was also delightfully creamy and decadent, and we would definitely recommend it to Mac and Cheese aficionados. The one disappointment was the small peach cobbler, which was only so-so ($1.95). The brisket, which you can get either sliced or chopped is uber-tender and comes with a nice smoky, crusty exterior. My sister, who doesn’t even like BBQ, loved it. the pulled pork sandwich though, was my favorite. The pork itself is light pink from the smoking and practically melts in your mouth. We were raving about our food for days.

Truth be told though, the location is pretty random – it’s right off of the Kennedy expressway, and tucked into an unassuming building in a mostly residential area. However, a few weeks after our maiden voyage, we made the venture again to get takeout. Now I understand why they do such a brisk takeout business – it tastes good even after an hour car ride! So if you can make the trip over – you should try to do it – this is some good BBQ.

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