(Guest post by The Boyfriend)
I have a love/hate relationship with smoke.
There’s smoke. But then there’s smoke.
The wrong kind (read that as cigarette, or worse, cigar smoke) gives me an instant headache, clogs my sinuses, and transforms the whites of my eyes into something resembling a road map. It’s rare that Julie and I venture into bars in Kentucky, where smoking is still prevalent. If we do, however, it’s a safe bet that the first things I’ll do when we get home will be to get out of my clothes (going so far as to put them in a separate room), get into the shower, and wash my hair. It’s that bad.
But hardwood smoke is another matter. Is there a more welcome aroma than the first whiff of a hardwood fire on a crisp fall or winter morning? Or better yet, the distinctive smells in and around a barbecue restaurant?
It was the latter that grabbed my attention on Friday when I had lunch at Jim Dandy’s Family BBQ, just off I-75 in Sharonville. As soon as I opened my car door, I could well imagine I was standing outside my favorite barbecue joint back home in Alabama. Before going inside, I walked over and took a bigger sniff near the big black iron pit, steadily belching smoke in front of the restaurant. I smelled pig.
To find a restaurant that truly understands its final product, look no further than Jim Dandy. Their slogan, prominently displayed in several places in and around the restaurant, is presumably a good-natured dig at Montgomery Inn.
In various reviews and stories here on wine me, dine me, we’ve discussed the beauty of letting perfectly-smoked meat speak for itself and that anything added to the meat should be used sparingly and should enhance the meat’s flavor, not mask it. Included in Jim Dandy’s mission statement: “Great BBQ is about superbly prepared meat. Sauce and rubs can add to the experience, but the wood fire brings out the very best flavor and texture.”
Though there were many meat options (chicken, beef brisket, baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs, etc.), I settled on the pulled pork sandwich platter. (As Lewis Grizzard, one of my favorite Southern writers once said, “If it ain’t pig, it ain’t barbecue.”)
The meat was as good as it smelled, very moist, and falling-apart tender. I ate most of the generously-piled sandwich without any of the house-made barbecue sauces on the table. About halfway through the meal, I added some of the mild tomato-based sauce; it was good, but not an absolute requirement.
The side dishes I selected were fine, but not particularly memorable. The baked beans were hearty, sweet, and onion-y. The coleslaw was light and tangy. Next time, I think I’ll try the collard greens and potato salad.
Don’t laugh. Any true Southerner knows that really good barbecue can be a lifesaver.
Before I left, I took another stroll past the barbecue pit, still billowing its wonderful mixture of smoke and pig. I could still smell it on my clothes when I started my car. And this time, I wasn’t at all in a hurry to scrub it all away.