Apr 4 2011
07:41 pm
Fast facts:Dead End BBQ
Price range:Sandwiches $5 to $9. Plates $9 to $21
Summary:Commendable Memphis-style BBQ
Address:3621 Sutherland Ave., Knoxville TN 37919 Map

According to Wikipedia, the word "barbecue" comes from a Native American word meaning "sacred fire pit."

Barbecue is sacred. Yes, that sounds about right.

For many Americans, barbecue is practically a religion. Some swear their allegiance to Memphis, some are Kansas City partisans, some preach North Carolina as the One True Way for the best barbecue in this country, and any discussion of the Great Brisket Schism* could easily trigger civil unrest. I'm mostly ecumenical on the issue, although I do love a good Memphis dry rub.

Regardless of your particular sectarian allegiance, I believe most of us can agree that the combination of meat, fire, smoke, spices, rubs, and sauces is indeed sacred, and (to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin) it is proof that a higher power loves us and wants us to eat tasty things.

Those tasty things are available in holy abundance at Dead End BBQ.

I'm not suggesting that we should bow toward Sutherland Avenue when we pray, but Dead End makes some mighty good Memphis-style barbecue. Ribs, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, and (gasp!) even brisket are all on the menu.

Dead End BBQ features three sauces, all of which are variations on the same theme of (I suspect) tomato, brown sugar, hot peppers, vinegar, and cumin. They are not three completely different sauces; instead, they are more like a single musical chord repeated in three different octaves.

  • Peacefully Dead is the sweetest of the three sauces, with just a hint of smokiness and very little spiciness.
  • Gratefully Dead is a little sweet, not spicy, and is the smokiest of the three.
  • Dead End Red is the spiciest of the three, with just a hint of smoke & a tiny suggestion of sweetness.

Quite often, hot sauces rely too much on the sourness of vinegar in order to sharpen the fiery capsaicin which gives peppers their heat. Fortunately, Dead End Red doesn't overdo it with the vinegar and simply relies on the peppers to speak for themselves. The flavors suggested cayenne and perhaps a little habanero. Dead End Red doesn't shy away from the heat, but it doesn't overdo it either. If you like hot foods, that sauce is just about right.

On a recent visit to Dead End, one of my companions ordered the pulled pork plate, and the other ordered a combination of pulled pork and chicken. Each plate comes with two sides; both of them ordered a side of beans with smoked sausage. I ordered a half slab of ribs with macaroni and pimento cheese. All three of us ordered red, white, and bleu slaw as our second side.

Both the pork and chicken were succulent and tender, and had a wonderfully woody smoked flavor throughout. They were served without a barbecue sauce, leaving that choice up to the customer. The consensus at our table was that the Grateful Dead sauce was the best choice for both the pulled pork and the chicken.

The ribs are served with the Grateful Dead sauce already on them, which I supplemented with some Dead End Red. Oh, them ribsThey were meaty, juicy, and very tender, just the way great barbecued ribs are supposed to be. Their smokiness went very well with the dark peppery flavor of the hot sauce. My inner carnivore was happy.

All three of us loved the beans and sausage. They carried a lot of flavor, with just the right seasoning to supplement the smoky flavors of the barbecue. We also agreed that the red, white, and bleu slaw was a winner. It's basically an ordinary cole slaw, but dressed up with some bits of sausage and crumbled bleu cheese. Those ingredients turned an otherwise mundane slaw into something noteworthy.

Surprisingly, the mac & pimento cheese was a disappointment. To all three of us, the cheese tasted like plain old American cheese, with no pimento flavor anywhere to be found. That was something of a let-down, but then again, no one in their right mind goes to a barbecue joint primarily for the sides. It's all about the meat, baby.

Can I get an "amen?"

Sandwiches range from $5 to $9, and entrees range from $9 for a single-meat plate to $21 for a full slab of ribs. A half slab is $14. There isn't a vegetarian dish in sight, except the salad and maybe some of the sides. This should not be a surprise.

(*I'm non-sectarian on the brisket-as-BBQ-heresy issue, which I suppose makes me a Barbecue Unitarian, or Barbitarian for short.)

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rocketsquirrel's picture

DIY Dead End

Here's my recipe for some DIY Dead End. Dunno what they use for a rub, but I love my Regas seasoning.

Proceed to the venerable Lays Market, 622 East Jackson Avenue. They've been around since 1907. Get required number of their extra meaty babyback ribs. They run about $8 a slab.

Also pick up while you are there a jar of Regas seasoning and a bottle or two of, yep, the real deal Dead End BBQ sauce.

Throw the ribs on a cookie sheet. Rub both sides with Regas seasoning. Cover with foil, bake 2:15 at 300 deg. (based on two slabs.)

Remove, smother with Dead End BBQ sauce, and grill off the ribs for about 15 minutes.

With local nods to Lays, Regas, and Dead End all in one grilling, you can't go wrong. Dead End's sauce is $6.99 a bottle at Lay's, but it has a heck of a kick that requires no adjustments.

smalc's picture

The mac & pimento cheese was

The mac & pimento cheese was different in their early days. It was actually pimento cheese-y. What they serve now is just a good m&c.

And for those who recall an infamous knoxblab thread, the service has improved dramatically since the early days.

Russ's picture

BBQ jihad!

You're trying to start a religious war, aren't you? ;-)

As far as I'm concerned, if it's edible and made of protein, it's probably eligible for barbecue, with or without 'maters.

Joe328's picture

One of my favorite BBQ stops.

One of my favorite BBQ stops. I have several BBQ places I like. Each one has it own flavor.

bizgrrl's picture

We keep looking for a good

We keep looking for a good bar-b-q joint. Here's to hoping the good review will keep them open long enough for us to visit.

Pam Strickland's picture

Dead End has been on national

Dead End has been on national TV and written up in several places, I think they'll be around for a while. They are excellent.

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