Chow Town

Taste the love in Perry’s Original Roadside Barbecue

Perry’s collard greens, brisket, ribs, cornbread and pulled pork.
Perry’s collard greens, brisket, ribs, cornbread and pulled pork. Special to The Star

Chow Town Nation celebrates love on Valentine’s Day. Love is always in the air in Kansas City.

Here in Chow Town Central, thin blue luscious barbecue smoke fuels our passions every day — 24/7.

Savvy Chow Towners know that the “barbecue” in Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” is your main squeeze, not a slab of ribs or a brisket sandwich. Likewise, we know Barbeque Bess as sung by Patti LaBelle on the Fried Green Tomatoes movie soundtrack isn’t serving barbecue pulled pork “any night at twelve.”

The cartoon depicting two cavewomen discussing how to attract a man — “Just rub some barbecue behind your ears” — is Chow Town chic.

Our greeting card industry sells the very best Valentine cards. Our candy industry makes the best Valentine chocolates. And our chocolate ale is so good that there’s never enough to go around on Valentine’s Day. Cards, candy and ale aside, barbecue is Chow Town’s passion, our aphrodisiac.

There are other places in Chow Town Nation where barbecue is love.

One of my favorites is Sarasota, Fla., wherever and whenever pitmaster Washington Perry is serving Perry’s Original Roadside Barbecue.

Perry’s isn’t fancy. No table service. Order, pay, get your barbecue and you’re on your own. On Wednesdays, when Perry holds court at the Phillippi Farmhouse Market, a few tables are available nearby.

Soda and water, no wine or beer. No sommelier or cicerone to suggest wine or beer pairings.

It’s one of the best in Chow Town Nation. Enjoy Perry’s barbecue by itself or with collard greens, beans, coleslaw, potato salad, mac & cheese or cornbread. If it matters to you, Perry’s is on the sweet side of the cornbread debate.

I like Perry’s brisket naked. It doesn’t need sauce. I do like to add a touch of Perry’s sauce on his pulled pork and ribs.

True to his Georgia roots, where pork barbecue is king, Perry’s sauce has the right balance of sour and sweet to complement the naturally sweet pork meat.

It was fun, recently, to meet and share a table at the Phillippi Farmers Market with local realtor Lisa Bello and family. Lisa’s dad, Ricky Sabatino, formerly of Baltimore, told me Lisa is Perry’s No. 1 fan.

“If you want to know where Perry is any day, ask Lisa.”

Ricky also shared some fond memories of hosting George Brett at Sabatino’s Italian Restaurant back in the day.

Be it his sauce, his barbecue or his rub, Perry will tell you what’s in it. “But it won’t come out right.” Why? “Because you don’t have the love for it.”

The Love

Wherever you eat barbecue, especially on Valentine’s Day, make sure the pitmaster has the love for it. You’ll know at first bite.

Ardie Davis 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 Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent release is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”