For my third installment of ‘My Favorite Joints’ I am extremely excited to have the BBQ Joint picks from John T. Edge. If you’re not familiar with John, he is well known as a writer, educator; Director, Southern Foodways Alliance; Contributing Editor, Gourmet; Columnist, Oxford American; Columnist, New York Times.
Photo of John courtesy of Yvonne Boyd
There’s more information about John at the end of this post, but here’s his detailed contribution:
“Happy to riff. I love Payne’s on Lamar in Memphis. It’s not my fave. I have no one fave. But I dig it.
I can still recall my first visit to Payne’s, set in a former filling station on Lamar Avenue in Memphis. It was 1995. Smoke hung in the air like a fog. The interior at Emily Payne’s barbecue joint was bare, with all the physical and acoustical charm of an elementary school lunchroom. A few booths hugged the side of the building where the grease pits once were. Behind the counter I could hear the whack, whack, whack of a cleaver on the cutting board.
Photo of Payne’s courtesy of James Boo – Serious Eats
The sandwich was huge. Despite a bun the size of a Cadillac hubcap, little bits of smoke-blackened pork shoulder had escaped their white bread trappings and were scattered about the flimsy paper plate. The tomatoey sauce brought with it the welcome heat of red pepper. Scattered here and there were shards of coleslaw that was assertive in its own way, tasting of vinegar, mustard, sugar, and black pepper.”
For the remainder of his choices, John pulled out his BBQ picks from his piece he did in Garden and Gun here
BBQ eats from list:
Catfish of Pork – B.E. Scott’s Bar-B-Que
Lexington, Tennessee – 731-968-0420
Ricky Parker, longtime owner and pit master, calls it the “catfish.” Says it’s the tenderest cut from the tenderloin of a hog. No one argues anatomy and genus with Ricky. They just step to the window and name the part of the hog—shoulder, belly, ham, or, yes, catfish— they want pulled for a sandwich.
Photo of B.E. Scott’s Bar-B-Que courtesy of Whitney Harper – Roadfood
Chicken Stew – Midway BBQ
Buffalo, South Carolina – 864-427-4047
Ropy with threads of tender chicken, speckled with black pepper, this buttery and milky concoction has few, if any, barbecue house analogues. After slurping down a bowl, I like to walk the sawdust-strewn floor, perusing refrigerator cases stacked with streak o’ lean. (864-427-4047)
Photo of Midway BBQ
Cornish Game Hen – Cozy Corner
Memphis, Tennessee – 901-527-9158
Since the 1970s, the Robinson family has been working an aquarium-style smoker on which they cook the best ribs in town. They excel at stick bologna, too, known to some as Mississippi round steak. But their Cornish game hens, suffused with charcoal-flamed goodness, trump all.
Photo of Cozy Corner courtesy of Roadfood
Hash and Rice – Neal’s Barbecue
Thomson, Georgia – 706-595-2594
Trotters go in the cast-iron washpot. Jowls, too. Cooked down, over a wood fire, they become hash, kissing cousin to Brunswick stew. At Neal’s, rice is the preferred ballast, but a half pound of hacked whole hog works, too.
Photo of Neal’s Barbecue courtesy of Eat It, Atlanta
Hot Sausage Wrap – Southside Market
Elgin, Texas – 512-285-3407
One bite and your shirtfront will splotch. Two bites and your eyeglasses film. Locals once called these sausages “hot guts.” They’re a little less spicy these days, but the grease within still packs a flavor wallop. I use the so-called wrap of white bread as a napkin.
Photo of Southside Market courtesy of Man Up: Tales of Texas BBQ
Redneck Taco – Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Nolensville, Tennessee – 615-776-1856
I don’t like the slur, but I love the sandwich. How to do it the way Pat Martin does it: Take an oversize hoecake. Pile it high with threads of hickory-smoked whole hog. Gild the whole of it with slaw and sauce. Rake in the acclaim.
Photo of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Ribs – Archibald’s Bar-B-Q
Northport, Alabama – 205-345-6861
Loosening meat from the bone requires a good tug. Not a pull, mind you. Just a brief application of the incisors, and hickory-kissed pork strips fall away. The sauce, which you should apply with caution, is orange hued and vinegar nosed.
Photo of Archibald’s Bar-B-Q courtesy of Sam Dog Barbeque
Sliced Pork Sandwich with Slaw – Craig’s Bar-B-Q
De Valls Bluff, Arkansas – 870-998-2616
The wallpaper calls to mind an Arkansas duck hunt as captured by a Japanese pastoralist. The sandwich—sliced barbecue capped with a diced apple and cabbage slaw, smothered in something like enchilada sauce—is a singular homage to the late pit master Lawrence Craig.
Photo of Craig’s Bar-B-Q courtesy of Michael Stern – Roadfood
Spread – McClard’s Bar-B-Q
Hot Springs, Arkansas – 501-623-9665
The dish looks like a Chia Pet, covered in a furry orange carpet of grated cheddar cheese. Beneath it all is a rick of tamales and chili beans, chopped beef barbecue, onions, and—this part is important—Fritos, for textural contrast.
Photo courtesy of Michael Stern – Road Food
Whole Hog Plate – Scott’s Variety Store
Hemingway, South Carolina – 843-558-0134
The pig, split down its belly, leaves the smoke-shrouded pit house, bound for the chopping room, on what looks like a repurposed hospital gurney. Once it’s inside, the ladies cut the rind free with shears and pull the meat into necklaces of hickoried swine. Grab a loaf of white bread, if you like. (unreachable by phone)
Photo of Scott’s Variety Store courtesy of James Boo – Serious Eats
What an impressive and extensive list. A lot of those joints are ones I hadn’t heard of or didn’t know much about since they aren’t always the first stop on the tour of famous BBQ Joints. If you’re traveling around the south and want good ‘off the beaten path’ BBQ you couldn’t go wrong with this list. Let me know if you stop at any of John’s recommendations and send over pics as well. Thanks again to John and his tireless effort in the name of good food.
About John T. Edge.
He writes a monthly column, “United Tastes,” for the New York Times. He is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun. He is a longtime columnist for the Oxford American. He was a contributing editor at Gourmet.
His work for Saveur and other magazines has been featured in seven editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. He has been nominated for five James Beard Foundation Awards, including two M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Awards. In 2009, he was inducted into Beard’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.
Edge holds a master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. He is director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he documents and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the American South. The SFA has completed more than 450 oral histories and 20 films, focusing on the likes of fried chicken cooks, row crop farmers, oystermen, and bartenders. He has a number of books to his credit, including the James Beard Award-nominated cookbook, A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South.
Putnam published his four book series on iconic American eats: Fried Chicken: An American Story; Apple Pie: An American Story; Hamburgers & Fries: An American Story; and Donuts: An American Passion. Algonquin Books published, in 2007, a revised and expanded edition of Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South. Edge is editor of the foodways volume of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. And he is general editor of the book series, Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing. He is at work on a new project, for Workman, a cookbook that catalogues modern American street and truck food.