The entire reason I started this mad quest last September was to eat food like the chopped pork shoulder I had at Big Bill Bar-B-Que in Whitehaven on Monday. The plain-looking little restaurant is in the corner of a strip mall a few blocks south of Graceland on a stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard packed with fast food restaurants. I drive past it a couple times a month but never paid much attention to it. Even after I started the quest I just noted it in my mind as another place I needed to visit sometime since I'd never heard anything about it and there was nothing distinctive about its appearance.
I suspected I'd been missing out by not stopping sooner as soon as I opened the door of my work vehicle and stepped out onto the parking lot beside Big Bill. I was immediately enveloped in mouth-watering barbecue aroma. That was when I looked up and saw the smoke billowing from a chimney at the top of the building. Big Bill may be in the middle of a commercial shopping center, but the place is definitely outfitted with a real barbecue pit.
The second sign that the place was doing something right came when I stepped inside and saw that almost every table was occupied with people chowing down on barbecue. The restaurant's next-door neighbor in the same building is a Lenny's Sub Shop and it sits directly across the street from a McDonald's and a Little Caesar's Pizza, so it wasn't a lack of quick, cheap lunchtime competition that was bringing in the crowds.
I ordered a chopped pork dinner and took a seat while I waited. Almost all the menu items were less than $10 and my meal was ready in just a few minutes. The pork was light and juicy with a prominent smoke ring. And my serving included pieces of meat that had some of the delicious outer crust on them. The pink smoke ring extending from the crust on those pieces was over an inch deep. I ordered the hot barbecue sauce on the side. It wasn't actually hot, but it had a nice spicy hint to it and a subtle sweetness that balanced perfectly with the herb flavors in it. It was delicious in a way that would make me recommend it to anyone, as opposed to the fiery hot barbecue sauce at somewhere like the Cozy Corner, which I love but wouldn't recommend to anyone with reservations about eating spicy food.
I normally avoid bread when I eat barbecue, which has helped my pork-heavy diet to improve my health. But since the crunchy slaw, which included a nice helping of pickle, was also good I naturally wondered how it would pair with the great pork meat and sauce on a sandwich. I tore off a corner of the perfectly-toasted jumbo bun included with my dinner and put together a few bites worth of mini-sandwich. It was every bit as good as imagined. If you are near Graceland and wanting to grab a quick, cheap and pretty-much perfect barbecue sandwich, swing by Big Bill. If you are still in the neighborhood and want more barbecue later, in a more Elvis-appropriate funky nightclub environment, you can always head a few blocks further south to Marlowe's.
The baked bean were also full of flavor and meat. Like the beans I had recently at Three Little Pigs in Colonial Acres, they tasted like real baked beans not something out of a can. In fact, comparing Three Little Pigs to Big Bill Bar-B-Que is a perfect example of why I don't bother trying to give specific grades to the places I visit. Both of the restaurants have plastic chairs and utensils, low prices, quick service and excellent barbecue. Since they are in different parts of town, why waste time trying to decide which one is best? It would be hard to do even in a side-by-side taste test. I'm doing this to have fun. And at a place like Big Bill Bar-B-Que, the fun comes from savoring a pork shoulder dinner with your undivided attention until it is gone. Rankings would require keeping up with long lists of places and categories that would ultimately just be a distraction from the joy of the moment.