Apology accepted, Full Service. Apology accepted.
We did pretty good for eastern Tennessee barbecue on this trip. Our third barbecue stop, and the first that our daughter was able to join us for, was at this delightful little place that opened in 2009 in the space that was once home to a Crown gas station. Caleb of Smoked Pig and Sweet Tea gave it a nice writeup a few years ago and it certainly sounded promising.
It was a really nice, warm day, and this is a terrific place for outdoor dining. When Anthony DiFranco and his family moved in, they took the space previously occupied by the gas pumps and used them for picnic tables and cornhole games, and have a box of colored chalk for kids to write all over the ground. They’ve given people lots to do while they wait. And, in the words of Casablanca in our case, and wait, and wait. And wait.
We placed our order for pulled pork sandwiches, pulled chicken sliders, and mac and cheese, paid, and watched, increasingly grimly, as people who walked up and drove up got their food ahead of ours. I don’t know that I mask disappointment very well. I imagine that the look on my face as the minutes passed was not a happy one. DiFranco got a moment to come out and check on people and realized that we had no food. He was horrified. Our food had gone out the wrong window, to somebody’s drive-through order. He was incredibly apologetic and asked us to give him a second. What he gave us was more than enough to make up for the delay.
The Knoxville area, it must be said, does not have a great reputation for barbecue. Most of what I’ve sampled around these parts was in the mid-2000s, before the blog, and I never found anything amazing, although I would like to return one day to a couple of pretty good places just to document them. So, with my limited local experience in mind, I will still say that if there is any barbecue better than this for fifty miles, I would be amazed. This was excellent, and worth the wait. DiFranco smokes over a blend of red oak and hickory, and the sauce that we asked for on the side is a sticky-sweet and thick brown brew. I enjoyed it; Marie didn’t bother with it. The meat was so good that she didn’t want it. (Sadly, the very bright sun conspired to make some awful pictures of the food, which is why none are posted. It was so bright that I couldn’t tell that the photos were not in focus until we got home. Ah, well.)
We opened the bag and didn’t just find this excellent barbecue, but extra sides and two gigantic cups of banana pudding. Well, now.
Before I continue, let me assure you good readers that the rest of this chapter is intended to be read as incredibly silly, and not at all serious.
Now, I have lamented in the past that one teeny obstacle prevents us from really digging into Knoxville’s food scene on those very rare occasions that we’re actually in this city. Marie is the obstacle. When we’re traveling, I really want to go to new places. All new. But Knoxville is home to Marie’s favorite place in the world for crepes, as we saw in a story last week, as well as her favorite pizza on the planet. Since I like making my wife happy with her favorite foods, I sort of resolved that every time we come to town, we’re going to have to go to one place or the other, somewhat limiting our ability to dig in to multiple new places.
Would you believe that this blasted restaurant apologized to us with the best banana pudding we’ve ever had? It was remarkable!
Yes, I’m certain that the banana pudding was greatly appreciated. The toddler had a ball, the barbecue was terrific, and I got my roadside architecture geek satisfied seeing this old Crown reused so neatly, but man, they’ve made it difficult to create new content for the blog from this city when there’s yet another place we’re going to need to visit again.
Oh, well. I do need usable pictures of the actual food, I suppose…
You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 270!) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s terrific for anybody planning a barbecue road trip through the southeast!