You’d think that after five days of nonstop, wonderful barbecue in Texas, my yearly meat need would have been satisfied. However, there are other circumstances in which the more you consume—as with extremely addictive narcotics—the more your body can take. That is, of course, up to the point at which your body chooses to exceed its limit of tolerance and succumb to death. I guess that’s the catch.
I am a barbecue monster.
I have recently had nightmares about brisket, enormous beef ribs, and other smoked meats coated in sauce and magic because I am not quite at the point of no return with barbecue. Everyone has an opinion on which kind of barbecue is “the finest,” in part because the barbecue we ate in Texas was considerably different from that available in Tennessee. Believe it or not, if you know where to look, Chattanooga offers some excellent barbeque. Having eaten in Chattanooga for my Date Night Dining column for over three years, I thought it could be interesting to review some of the greatest barbecue joints I’ve been to. Usually, pork-based barbecue comes in rib, shredded, and chopped varieties. As smoked chicken and rare beef ribs are not my favourites, I often stick to pork barbecue.
Sugar’s Ribs2450 15th Ave.
A unique (at least in Tennessee) Carolina type of barbecue is available at Sugar’s Ribs in Chattanooga. The restaurant’s menu is filled with slow-roasted meats and wood-fired sides. The vinegar-based sauces from North Carolina are what distinguish Sugar’s. In other words, a considerably thinner (but still excellent), more watery sauce is used in lieu of the super-gooey, sticky sauces often associated with “Southern” barbecue. Try the “Hot Lips” sauce made with garlic, onion, jalapenos, and habaneros. In contrast to Chattanooga’s standard BBQ restaurant, Sugar’s offers a refreshing change of pace. As far as barbecue goes, I believe Sugar’s ribs are underappreciated. I have no idea why this is.
Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que in East Ridge is where you can get “the greatest” barbecue in Chattanooga, if you ask me outright. When my buddy Bruce asked me to join him for lunch there, I knew it was going to be great since he’s often one of the first people to discover hidden treasures across the area. It’s simple, Southern barbecue. There isn’t any sauce on the tables, and you really don’t need it. The pork spare ribs are almost flawless, and I highly suggest them. Do you recall how sometimes ribs might be “gnawy” or how occasionally the flesh can simply come off the bone and into your lap? These ribs are in the centre and are the greatest I’ve ever eaten in Chattanooga, in my opinion.
Shuford’s Smoke House
Although the concept of a “family restaurant” is somewhat overused, Shuford’s is one of the cutest. Shuford’s has evolved from a decent restaurant to a Chattanooga landmark thanks to owner Jeff Davis. Even though the restaurant’s walls are adorned with paraphernalia from the Alabama Crimson Tide (go Vols? ), the barbecue is among the consistently best you’ll find. You can’t go wrong with a typical pork plate, and the rib plate includes a half-rack of hickory-smoked ribs slathered in Shuford’s unique sauce. Shuford’s excels in the catering department. Shuford’s has turned ordinary work-related occurrences into extraordinary ones. I can also suggest the BBQ filled potato if you’re feeling very peckish.
Thatcher’s Barbecue & Grill
In Georgia and Tennessee’s tiny communities close to Chattanooga, there are a number of roadside BBQ joints. Thatcher’s BBQ & Grill in Trenton is one of my favourite restaurants. The meals here have fun titles like “Shovel Um’ Shovels” and “Spud Patch,” which is how I first heard about this restaurant from Covenant College alums who would trek down from the mountain for them. Although you can’t go wrong with whatever you eat at Thatcher’s, I often get a pork plate since the pork is soft and well-barked (with a little crunch). Such little establishments like Thatcher’s are my favourite.
Hillbilly Willy’s Bar-B-Q
Several things made our trip to Hillbilly Willy’s Bar-B-Q noteworthy. To begin with, I had never heard of the eatery before our visit. The inside has a Hillbilly Willy character—an old codger with a beard, a toothless smile, and white lightnin’ on his breath—and a humorous moonshine motif. However, the barbecue stands out because it is a hybrid style with well-seasoned, a little drier than typical ribs, and “barky” meat. In Chattanooga, Memphis-style BBQ is uncommon. My first thought was to compare these ribs to my preferred kind from Rendezvous in Memphis. Every time I come here, it gets better and better.