I've decided to make the most of my time in the tourist mecca of the midwest --- known in these parts as Evansville, Indiana. I dropped by the concierge desk at the hotel and asked where the nearest barbecue joint was located.
They readily offered up not only a recommendation, but a map. "It's really good," they told me. "The best barbecue in the midwest." Well, that's not really saying much, I thought. So, off I went in search of the 'cue.
As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I knew something was not right. I didn't see any white smoke and I didn't smell any barbecue. Maybe I was up-wind from the smoker, I thought. I opened the door to what was one heck of a nice restaurant. It had carpeting, air conditioning, and well dressed servers. Another red flag went up.
As I was escorted to my table, I scanned the dining room and noticed the final warning signs -- they had an all-you-can-eat buffet and the menu included more than 50 items --- in addition to the barbecue.
The deal buster was the iced tea. It was unsweetened. Friends, that's like the pope preaching at a Baptist church. It just ain't going to happen. I busted out of that place faster than a donut at a Krispy Kreme.
My hopes of finding good barbecue were dashed until I discovered the Bar-B-Q Shack -- an honest to goodness world championship barbecue joint. I got out of my rental car and was immediately overwhelmed with the sweet smell of smoked meat.
Out front, there were a couple of concrete pig benches and inside --- plenty of pig memorabilia including a huge sign that reads, "NICE RACK." I think it's referring to the ribs.
A waitress hollered at me to just grab a seat. She was wearing a t-shirt that read, "Once you go to the shack, you'll always come back." Now that's real barbecue service. I plopped down and within moments I was sipping a big glass of iced tea and deciding how much barbecue I could handle. The tablecloth --- checkered -- with bottles of homemade barbecue sauce and roll of paper towels. All signs of a genuine 'cue joing.
The owner, Mike, dropped by and said he was a proud fan of Fox News Channel and sure enough --- one of the televisions was tuned to the only cable news source that is fair and balanced.
Mike knows barbecue. He is part of the Flying Pigs --- a competitive barbecue team. They will be testing their meat and mettle at the annual World Barbecue Championship in Memphis.
They prepare their meat Memphis-style --- it's a dry rub -- and folks --- it's pretty darned good. I was scarfing down the meatiest ribs I've had in ages, when Mike brought over some brisket. Sweet mercy!
My waitress came over and topped off my iced tea. I licked my fingers and exclaimed, "Nice rack!"
"Thank you," she replied.
"I was referring to the ribs," I said.
Maybe Evansville isn't all that bad after all.