Rarely does a world-famous barbecue joint, or any other restaurant for that matter, live up to its hype. Ridgewood Barbecue does.
Read more after the jump...
We've been hearing about this place for a couple of years now, and all the glowing recommendations had set some pretty high expectations. After finally getting up there today on a Roan Mt. driveabout, our expectations were met and exceeded.
There aren't many (or really any) restaurants I would drive 120 miles to dine at, but if someone forced me to make a list, Ridgewood would be at the top. If you are in the area of Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, Elizabethton, Blountville, or just heading out of Knoxville on Asheville Highway and feeling the need for some barbecue, or for whatever other reason find yourself in the general vicinity of Bluff City where Ridgewood Barbecue is located, go there. Trust me.
They have an extensive menu, with probably some steaks and burgers and maybe even some chicken and seafood and whatnot, but I don't really know, because we only looked at the barbecue section. It has beef or pork, plate or sandwich. (That's the pork on the left, and the beef on the right.)
There might have been something on the back of the menu about their methods and techniques, but we didn't read it. We ordered a pork plate.
You've had your pulled pork, and your chopped pork (which doesn't count), and your sliced pork (which is what they serve at Ridgewood). But you ain't never had no pork like the sliced pork at Ridgewood. Although the barbecue purist in me says pulled pork butt is proper barbecue, Ridgewood's sliced pork, from whatever region of the pig it comes from, trumps all other barbecue.
The meat is tender and moist, with a delicate and perfectly smoked flavor you won't find anywhere else. The barbecue sauce is a perfect tangy-sweet-sour-rich-spicy-tomato blend of North Carolina style vinegar sauce and Memphis/Kansas City style red sauce. (Texas so-called barbecue don't even enter into it, of course.) It is also reminiscent of Asian sweet and sour style sauce, which they probably stole from Ridgewood. It's a sauce that ends all arguments, and ushers in a new era of global barbecue sauce détente.
As great as it is, though, next time I will order the sauce on the side. I recommend this so you can fully appreciate the flavor of the meat that results from whatever cooking and smoking methods they employ.
Oh yeah, they have sides, too. The slaw is pretty much perfect if you are from the South. The French fries actually taste like potatoes. And be sure to get a side order of beans, which are unlike any other barbecue beans you have tried. And the service is outstanding, too. But who cares? At Ridgewood, it's all about the barbecue.
One other note. The portions are huge. A plate is $12.50, which clued me that it might be big. I asked our sever, and she said a lot of people split it. We did, and they kindly served it on two plates. I also noticed other diners splitting sandwiches, which were big enough to feed a couple of men and their dogs and maybe a girlfriend. (And tell your server if you don't want slaw on your sandwich, because slaw on your sandwich is the standard.)
Anyway, if you haven't figured it out by now, we loved Ridgewood Barbecue and highly recommend it. If you don't like this place, you just don't like barbecue. Check it out the next time you are in the neighborhood, and join their many happy customers like this one:
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