The Difference Between “Good” & “Great” BBQ Joints

I’ve said it before.  I eat at a BBQ joint just about every chance I get.  Even if I’ve eaten there before.  Now I try to be respectful of other folks if I’m out to lunch etc., but given the choice I’ll nearly always choose good BBQ over the other food groups.

I also find that in most BBQ joints, the BBQ is pretty decent.  Not always great, but good.  In fact, anyone that knows me knows that I critique the hell out of most of the places we go to.  And, I believe that my BBQ is just as good. 

But sometimes I walk out of a BBQ joint and say, “That was great”.  So I’ve begun to ponder what the difference is between “good” & “great” BBQ joints.  Is it the meat, or is it something else?  I’m not a big sauce guy, so it’s not the BBQ sauce.  Every BBQ joint you eat in these days all look the same, so it’s not the atmosphere.  Is it their reputation?  I don’t think so.  I’ve eaten in some notable joints and walked away underwhelmed. 

So what’s the difference between “good” & “great” BBQ joints?  I’ll tell you what I think it is.  It’s a combination of all the things I’ve already mentioned, plus awesome side dishes.  While I can cook the heck out of BBQ, I’m not as good at side dishes.  So I guess I put a high value on the things that I can’t do myself. 

If you want to take your BBQ joint from “good’ to “great”, you have to do all the basics and you have to do them well.  But you have to have great side dishes too.  It’s not enough to have good meat, a selection of sauces, a big glass of sweet tea, and a down home atmosphere.  You have to close the deal with some great sides.

I mean, have you had the BBQ beans at Martin’s BBQ Joint or the creamed corn at 17th Street Bar & Grill?  Shut my mouth & slap your grandma!  Now that’s good eatin’, and those are “great” BBQ joints.


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