Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whitt's Barbecue

Friday July 23rd 2010
Whitt’s Barbecue, Harding Pike at Harding Pl, Nashville, TN

On several occasions I’d heard Whitt’s referred to as “the worst barbecue in town”. It being a lowly local chain restaurant, guilty of cutting corners in favor of speedy service, in turn bastardizing a type of cooking with a religious following in these parts. A slogan like that isn’t something one comes by easily and it’s certainly not self-applied, meaning they earned it fair and square. Their reputation for failure and the sight of their “Wednesday is pork day!” marquee in my head, I was prepared for, maybe even hoping for some true unabashed culinary repugnance. What can I say, I was in the mood!
I’d noticed its proximity to my new workplace as I drove in on my first day, and after getting the run down of close by eateries from a co-worker (Krystal, Whitt’s, and the elegant Pineapple Room), Whitt’s seemed like the only choice. Anticipation formed within. I imagined myself biting into nasty chunk of mold, I imagined choking on little pieces of bone, and I imagined myself saying, “Well, they were right!”
There didn’t appear to be a sit down area, it was just a small booth type room and the gentleman behind the window was, for a southern boy especially, quick on the draw. He took my order seconds after I walked in, and I wasn’t even familiar with the menu. I’d been put on the spot, so I just took a glance and ordered the first things I saw. A pork sandwich and a turkey sandwich. Thinking fast, I noticed the sandwiches low price ($2.60 or so), and attributed the affordable cost not to exceptional value, but poor quality and measly size, and came to the decision to order two for hungers sake. We hadn’t even finished the monetary transaction process by the time they were ready.

Surprisingly the sandwiches weren’t that bad. Not to say they were good, it’s just that I’d built up such a realistic image in my mind of rotten meat, grease laden bread, and health code violating conditions, that to be served nothing more than a boring and uninspired bare bones barbecue sandwich was, in comparison, confusingly disappointing. The pork sandwich was really just a child size fist full of meat tossed between some buns, no sauce to speak of. I question wether the turkey was ever even actually barbecued or not, it seemed just like regular turkey, but at least they were kind enough to garnish this one with a pickle slice.
By nature barbecue is very slow food. You can throw something on a grill and leave it on there for hours and hours. Thus its popularity. It’s one of the few types of cooking where you can sit bobbing for beers in a kiddie pool with all your fat friends, alternating whose turn it is to rotate the meat slab. Hey, not like that people, you know what I mean. Which is why the idea of a fast barbecue place is just wrong. Not only because it diminishes the results of the food, but it takes the whole lengthy ceremonial aspect of barbecuing out of the equation, and I feel that’s just as important as the food.
I mean, I go to a barbecue joint on a lunch break, if the place is any good, I should be back at work at least a half hour late. Instead I’m back at work early sitting in the parking lot in Old Vanny with the AC blasting (because that’s all it will do) staring at the clock, chugging water to get the cheap pork taste out of my mouth. That is not how it should be.

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