|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. They 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.)See all NoshViews reviews...
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