I was in the mood for a drive and decided to find some barbecue a little ways out of town. Not too far, but not too close by, either.
One Saturday, as 157,000 people made their way to Bristol for a huge football game between the Vols and Virginia Tech, Marie and our son and I drove the opposite direction for a short while. I-24 was jam-packed with cars flying orange flags traveling from middle Tennessee to I-75. I remembered something my good pal Brooke told me about sixteen years ago. In Tennessee, they don’t just wait until game day to fly Volunteer orange.
After about thirty miles, on the far side of the Chattanooga metro area, we took TN-28 another thirty miles north to the town of Dunlap. We found our destination, Sequatchie Valley BBQ, in a converted trailer. Like many in eastern Tennessee, it’s a carry-out window with a picnic table outside. The restaurant opened eight years ago, using the former home of another barbecue place, Papa T’s. This seems the way of things here; barbecue places come and go. New businesses move into old ones.
We got to speak with the owner Scott Phipps for just a moment. He uses exclusively hickory wood in an upright Ole Hickory smoker behind the building and the chopped pork is pretty good.
My son decided that he wanted a baked potato, and they apologized for not having any immediately available, but they’d get one started if we could wait a few minutes. We took the rest of our food as it came out and enjoyed it at the building’s picnic table, enjoying the shade while we could as the sun crept behind the trailer and, inch by inch, we lost the shadow. I had beans and slaw with my plate and they were nothing to rave about, and Marie had a sandwich. We both thought the pork was about average for this region. It was smoky, and needed just a little sauce.
On its own, I don’t know that I’d say that this place is really worth the detour. Getting off I-24 between Chattanooga and Nashville, it would be nearly an hour round trip. But if you’re in the area, maybe visiting the waterfalls at Savage Gulf Natural Area, which we should do, or possibly checking out the Whitwell Dairy Bar, which we should also do, then it’s not a bad stop, and certainly preferable to any of the chains in these small towns. Think of it that way: it’s a pretty good destination if you can find one other thing in the area to make the drive worth your time.
Sequatchie Valley BBQ
Dunlap, TN 37327
Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 400 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!