As some of you know I have featured quite a few barbecue places on this blog. Although it might not fit into a "Cajun and Creole" theme, it is a Southern food and is a point of interest amongst foodie readers. Besides, smoked meats are a staple of the Cajun diet. Now, people all over believe their region has the best barbecue and I am no different. The big difference though is... I am right, these others are wrong. My barbecue restaurant back home is the best ANYWHERE. So here is my post about the famous Ridgewood Barbecue, the finest barbecue in the South, (or any direction for that matter.)
Ridgewood was opened 1948, as Ridgewood Inn, on a tiny road in Tennessee between the towns of Elizabethton and Bluff City. I grew up in Bluff City and Ridgewood soon became my favorite restaurant as a lad, although my mother didn't like it because of her dislike of smoked meats or anything for that matter, Dad sure loved it. Their sauce is phenomenal. It is a tomato based sauce sweetened with brown sugar and molasses. For any of you North Carolina barbecue snobs this is a real barbecue sauce not a bucket of vinegar with some pepper flakes in it. Please, keep that ole' swill for your Korean Kim Chee. This is barbecue sauce made the way God meant for it to be made.
Back when I was a kid, (remember the dinosaurs?) yeah, that was my era, anyway, when I was a kid we'd go and Mrs. Proffitt (Grace Proffitt, the owner) would meet you at the door and sometimes would close it in your face. Now, she wasn't being rude, this was because the restaurant was full. You'd hear people bitchin' and complainin' about her, but I understood it perfectly well. So now here is the secret... can everyone hear me? OK here it is, WHEN THE RESTAURANT IS FULL, THERE'S NO ROOM TO STAND!!! Is that soooooo difficult of a concept to grasp??? I don't know about you, but if I am eating I DO NOT want some tool looming over me goonin' at every bite I take. Set you ass outside and wait your turn. Now if you showed up with a baby, you were allowed in, if the place is full and it's raining... TOO BAD! Grace was always as sweet as could be to me, never did I set foot in the place without her asking how Mama was. She was a barbecue Godess.
Now about this particular visit. My best friend growing up, Terry, (or Ted as he now likes to be called, some California thing) was in visiting and he loves Ridgewood as much as I do, if that is at all possible. We made our way over and nearly panicked when the parking lot was jammed full. We actually parked on top of someone else's car, I believe, and made our way into the holding pen. Yes, griping whiners, there is now somewhere you can sit and cool your heels while you await entering the restaurant, sort of.
Any-who, the girl came over and we ordered identical meals without even glancing at the menu. Menu, shmenu we already knew what we wanted before leaving the house. Heck, we set our menu back in the 70's and it hasn't changed hardly at all. Pork Sandwich, Fries, Barbecue Beans, Iced Tea, that's the menu as far as we are concerned. Keep the sauce bottle handy, by the way. Now the waiting commences, look around a bit... oh great, we're in the add-on dining room and there are at least 3 screaming babies, and 2 big-hair women talking WAY TOO LOUD! Where do they still find polyester pantsuits?
Here it is... the Heavens open and the cloud part. I hear the singing of angels, I can imagine Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, where God is reaching out to man, but there's a pork barbecue sandwich in his mighty hand. Yes, MY pork barbecue sandwich, oh and I got the fries and beans too. Suddenly all was well in the world. No Middle-East conflicts, North Korea and South Korea were buddies, it was like we were propelled back into a kinder, gentler era where Reagan was president, and french fries were actually made out of potatoes.
My sandwich was awesome. Dripping with sauce, especially after I gave it an extra dose for good measure. Those beans are downright sinful, savory, sweet, with scraps of smoked pork swimming around in the decorative bowl like the three Bradley girls of Petticoat Junction would swim around "au naturale" in the Cannonball's water tower. Well, at least that's what my small twisted mind could imagine went on before the whipped their petticoats off of that railing. Oh Bobbie-Jo, you were the woman for me... oops sorry, I got carried away.
Proper Ridgewood etiquette requires you to DROWN you fries in the barbecue sauce, I mean really, there are fresh-cut fries, deep fried and crispy. you can see the browning on the edges where the natural sugars in the potato had caramelized. By the way, the use GIANT potatoes for the french fries. These are simple natural fries, no season salt, heck, no salt. Terry and I settled in for a session of quiet eating only to be disturbed by the occasional offer of more tea.
We are getting near our full level though, I don't think I can eat any more, but there is still delicious goodness left on the plate, how can I leave that. I can't take it home, no matter how good it is here it can never achieve this standard after a go-around in the Fridge and the Microwave. There has to be room somewhere mayb... oh, there it is, just under my 4th rib. I sop up the last remnants of the sauce with my final bite of sandwich and even catch an errant french fry I had somehow missed. Well Mister French Fry, thought you could get away did you?
We have done it! Another perfect meal at Ridgewood. OK, I rarely get there because I do overeat when I am there. Even their Bleu Cheese Dressing is awesome. My brother-in-law Frankie would sometimes order just a bowl of Bleu Cheese dressing and a fist-full of crackers. Evidently, this dressing is made to go on something called a Sa-Lad. Some with lettuce or, whatever. You have to go to Ridgewood. Mrs. Proffitt has passed on now as has her son Terry. Her Grand-Daughter Lisa Peters now runs the restaurant and luckily little to nothing has changed, and I hope nothing ever does. HERE is a nice little history and write up on the place in an interview of Larry Proffitt.
To get to Ridgewood, just make your way to Bluff City Tennessee and let your nose take you to the heavenly aroma, or you can type this into you Garmin, or whatever. Ridgewood Barbecue, 900 Elizabethtown Highway, Bluff City, TN 37618. (423-538-7543). No website that I know of but they do have a FaceBook Page. Try some real barbecue when in East Tennessee. Call me and I'll meet you over there. Enjoy!