Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Knoxville Area's Barbecue Chain - Buddy's

Last week I traveled to Knoxville, TN, with my dad to attend the National Street Rod Association's South Regional Nationals at the park surrounding the Knoxville Zoo. While Memphis is a part of Tennessee according to maps and government boundaries it is completely separate from Middle and East Tennessee in both geography and the culture derived from that geography. Memphis is a Mississippi Delta river port town. As you travel east you transition from hills in the middle of the state to outright mountains along the state's eastern border. The landscape and culture of the South is nowhere near as homogeneous as outsiders frequently assume.  

The mountainous land created a beautifully scenic destination for a car show.

Since there was a barbecue joint across Magnolia Avenue from the car show I naturally wanted to sample some while I was already on the far side of the state. Buddy's Bar-B-Q is a chain with 15 locations spread across the Knoxville area similar to the way Tops Bar-B-Q has locations all around Memphis.


I was hungry after a long day on my feet and wanted to sample both the ribs and pulled pork so I was glad to see the combination dinner on the menu. For a little less than $10 each my dad and I each got a few ribs, pulled pork and a fourth of a barbecue chicken along with beans, slaw and hush puppies. We where both intrigued by the pairing of hush puppies with a barbecue dinner. I think it may have represented a little Carolina influence on the eastern part of our state.

This sign was posted on the cash register. Barbecue isn't as ingrained in the way of life in Knoxville as it is in Memphis if people routinely think pink meat in their barbecue is something to worry about. It's called a smoke ring. It's a sign of flavorful, well-cooked meat.

The pulled pork was the best part of the meal. The meat itself was smokey and tender enough to compare well with the "Memphis-average" pulled pork from Tops. The ribs were serviceable but not particularly tender. The regular sauce, hush puppies and beans all tasted like what you could get from a bottle, frozen bag or can at a grocery store. They weren't bad, but nothing stood out. The same thing could be said about the slaw, which was a fairly bland mayonnaise-based rendition.

For the chicken I got a breast and wing while my dad got a wing and thigh section. If I'd been offered a choice I would have gone for the more flavorful dark meat for myself as well. The chicken's skin and wings were both good and flavorful while the breast meat was as dry and bland as any chicken breast is going to seem on a plate with ribs and pulled pork. I added some of the hot barbecue sauce located on the table and that made a big improvement although it still wasn't good on the same level as a spicy Cornish hen from Cozy Corner. I don't think there was a problem with the cooking technique. Chicken breast is just an inherently inferior cut of meat that only enjoys its current undeserved popularity because people have been conned into thinking that meats full of healthy, delicious pork fat are bad for them. Ever notice that a lot of people avoid eating pigs because pigs are fat, meanwhile happily consuming foods like soy, corn and skim milk that are used to make pigs get fat?  

I wish I had time to try more barbecue during my four days Knoxville. I had people who attended college there recommend the carryout barbecue from M&M Catering, but the car show consumed so much of our time we didn't venture too far away from Magnolia Avenue other than a brief trip Downtown where I really enjoyed the food and atmosphere at Barley's Taproom. While I also enjoyed my food at Buddy's, it was more of a good-enough fast food experience than a than a true barbecue score.

Buddy's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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