Friday, November 20, 2009

Fast Food Bbq, Dickey's vs BBQ Ribs & More

In some ways, barbecue is perfect for fast food. The meat is cooked ahead. The sides can be handled at a steam table. Bojangles has been successful serving Southern Fried Chicken and sides for years. A higher percentage of meals is being served in fast food restaurants everyday. NC bbq is missing out on this tresnd. Why is there no NC barbecue fast food chain?
BBQ Ribs & More was a small but growing chain of barbecue fast food restaurants. As described elsewhere, it was a victim of its own success. The chain was acquired by a restaurant management company, who decided that NC bbq did not fit into their network and closed down the chain. One restaurant was sold to the local franchisee. It continues to sell decent NC barbecue to this day. The meat there stands up to the best barbecue joints.
Now, Dickey's has come to Central North Carolina. Dickey's uses the classic fast food formula to sell less than exciting Texas style beef brisket, ribs and pulled pork. The meat there cannot stand up to authenic Texan barbecue, much less to North Carolina bbq. How can this survive in NC when a true NC fast food chain could not.
Looking at the two chains, the difference appears to be the size and nature of their home markets. Texas barbecue draws from all of Texas. NC bbq draws just from NC. Even then, the barbecue wars have divided the market even more. Differences in Texas barbecue are accepted as variations in the whole, not as dividers into competing styles. It is hard to create a mass market for what is a niche product.
Until somebody figures out a way to do NC bbq fast food right, we have NC bbq lovers opening restaurants out of area and/or ordering NC bbq shipped.

"Holy Smoke" by John Shelton Reed et al

During a book store closing, I snagged a signed copy of "Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue" by John Shelton Reed, the famed essayist on the American South, his wife Dale Volberg Reed, and Carolina Barbecue Society founder William McKinley. If this is not the Bible of NC barbecue, it is among the Holy Scriptures. The first sixty pages recount the history of barbecue in NC, which alone makes the book worth reading.

The book continues with descriptions of the different styles of bbq in NC, including how they have changed, barbecue restaurants and recipes. The finest jewel is the penultimate section, titled The People, in which legendary barbecue greats tell their story. Here you hear from Ed Mitchell, Keith Allen, Chad Stamey and a host of others recount how they got into the business and most important, why.

The book is currently on sale (but not signed) at Amazon. Go get your copy.

"Lunch at The BBQ Joint" in Food&Wine

Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Top Chef on Bravo is blogging a Southeastern road trip on the Food&Wine web-site. His entry for day 3 features Chapel Hill's own Tbe Barbecue Joint". With all of the Eastern NC possibilities in the area, picking The Barbecue Joint shows the place has the high repute it deserves. The short blog post is at