At Christmastime the faithful former American Royal Diddy-Wa-Diddy Barbecue Sauce Store volunteers who staffed the store for two decades gather for a reunion.
We often meet at Chow Town barbecue joints, but we’re a diverse group with eclectic tastes, so we have also met at Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and Italian joints. This year we gathered on a busy Saturday night at Avelutto’s Italian Delight in Mission.
It’s a time to catch up on each others’ busy lives, reminisce about good times, raise a toast and shed some tears for friends who have passed and will never be forgotten — Fred Fatino, Peggy Lawrey, Karen Putnam, John Willingham, Bob Kantor and Silky Sullivan, to name a few recent losses.
When the topic turned to barbecue, someone raised the familiar question, “What’s your favorite barbecue joint this year?”
The usual joints surfaced — Arthur Bryant’s, Oklahoma Joe’s, Jack Stack, LC’s and Johnny’s — but the consensus was that it’s impossible for one joint to have it all. Steve and Janet said the ribs at Roscoe’s are great. Dan said you’ve gotta try Bryant’s Sweet Heat. Jeff said don’t forget Brobeck’s, and so it went.
Later I was thinking, “If one joint had it all, what would I want on the menu?” How about:
• Arthur Bryant’s fresh-cut fries cooked in pure lard.
• The former RUB pig-pickin’ pork shoulder for group parties, New York City.
• Onion strings like Dr. Rich Davis perfected at the former KC Masterpiece restaurant.
• Happy Tomato pulled pork sandwich with pimiento cheese, Fernandina Beach, Fla.
• Jack Stack Denver lamb ribs.
• Dinosaur butterflied leg of lamb, Syracuse, NY.
• RJ’s smoked jalapeno sausages in corn husks.
• Oklahoma Joe’s Z-Man.
• Earl Quick’s BBQ baloney.
• Bogart’s pastrami, St. Louis.
• Johnny’s smoked/deep-fried chicken.
• The Bar-B-Q Shop BBQ Spaghetti, Memphis.
• A fried pies, Memphis.
• Smoque mac cheese, Chicago.
• Lillie’s Q shrimp grits, Chicago.
• Danny Edward’s burnt ends.
• Jack Stack prime rib.
• Smoki O’s rib tips and pig snoot, St. Louis.
• Oklahoma Joe’s spareribs, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
• Smoki O’s turkey ribs, St. Louis.
• Louie Mueller’s beef ribs, Taylor, Texas.
• Johnny Harris Brunswick stew, Savannah, Ga.
• BB’s Lawnside gumbo, beans and blues.
• Memphis Minnie’s sake sampler and fried cheese grits, San Francisco.
• Gates mutton.
• King’s Pig in a Puppy, Kinston, N.C.
• Moonlite Inn burgoo, Owensboro, Ky.
We could easily triple this list. What would you add?
One barbecue joint will never have everything. That’s good. Each joint has unique qualities and signature dishes that can’t be duplicated. You have to be there to take it in and appreciate it.
If you try every joint in Chow Town this year you’ll average two different joints per week. It’s time to start. Happy New Year!
Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”