There's been much mention in recent weeks, by food writers, of comfort food. What there hasn't been much of is scientific evidence that any such thing as edible anti-stress substances exist; even the New York Times could only come up with a few distinguished doctors pontificating that many people find pasta helpful -- but likely owing less to biology than simply because it tastes good. And for many of us Yankee transplants, what never fails to calm, even when most other things about life in the American South seem incomprehensible, is barbecue.
Barely year-old Bar-B-Q Barn features a much bigger variety of meats than most joints -- pork, beef, three kinds of ribs (baby-back and regular pork plus beef), chicken, turkey, and ham -- all slow-cooked over oak-supplemented hickory, the classic barbecue wood. There are also charbroiled steaks. What drew me to the Barn, though, were its ads touting seafood, since I often dine with non-meat-eating friends and have therefore long wondered why more American places don't throw a few shrimp on the barbie along with the meat, as Australians always do. I'll have to continue wondering awhile longer; Bar-B-Que barn's three types of fish (shrimp, plus unlisted-on-the-menu haddock and catfish) were fried. But all are fresh, not frozen, and though my companion's catfish fillet tasted not quite as fresh as at the Pit on the edge of the Everglades, it was tasty and large enough to keep her happy while I filled in as carnivore.
Most serious barbecue aficionados in Southeastern states consider your basic pulled, chopped, or sliced pork sandwich to be the standard by which a place's stuff is judged. (In Texas beef brisket is the benchmark, and in Kansas City, it's the ribs.) Bar-B-Que Barn's pork was good but not great; the sliced pork on a $5.75 "pork supreme," while sufficiently smoke-flavored, was quite dry. An application of crisp slaw, which comes as soon as you sit down, helped, as did the Barn's single, strange but appealing sauce -- a not overly sugary or very hot tangy tomato-based pink purée -- but not enough.
Regular pork ribs were moister, tender enough to slip off the bone yet still chewy enough to be interesting; mainly meaty but with enough fat to be satisfyingly sinful; subtly saturated by oak wood's natural sweetness, hickory's pungent smokiness -- and considerable comfort. A few accompanying glasses of bracing, not-too-sweet lemonade balanced the ribs perfectly enough to send me home sated. For those in need of more severe soothing, though, the Barn serves both imported beer and homemade key lime pie.
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