Jun 10 2006
09:34 pm

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:

OK, then.

F-Stop's picture

Mmmmm... Sounds good. I may


Sounds good. I may try to go there next weekend, as i'll be up on Roan Mountain with my folks, hiking the balds and shooting the flame azaleas and rhododendrens. It looks like it's fairly close by.

Ken's picture

Leo's Pulled Pig

I've been a fan of the Ridgewood for over thirty years.  Great stuff.  They have been featured by Jan and Micheal Stern in the Road Food column of Gourmet magazine.

A little closer to home, you might want to try Leo's Pulled Pig in Lenoir City. Great BBQ cooked in a big smoker next to the building.  Lots of good sides as well -- green beans, BBQ beans, potato salad.

Rex Sexington's picture

If it ain't from North

If it ain't from North Carolina, it ain't bbq. I said. I meant it. And I hope it makes you mad.

R. Neal's picture

Yeah, I hear you.

Yeah, I hear you. It doesn't make me mad. I actually like that chopped pork stuff with vinegar that folks in NC call "barbecue".

The vinegar and chopping hide the defects in the cooking and smoking, much like garlic "enhances" the meat used in some French and Italian cooking (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But go try Ridgewood and get back to us. It's just down the road from the NC border.

Anonymous01's picture

Nah did not make me mad

Just shows your education level.

Jerry's picture


I've had BBQ from both Carolinas and several places in Memphis. They don't come close to Ridgewood.

sam's picture

Isn't slaw on the sandwich a

Isn't slaw on the sandwich a NC thing too? 

I don't care about styles of bbq.  If you can make it good, that's what counts.  I've never had a better sauce than some my mother used to make, and it was red and vinegary, and one whiff of it would make your jaw clench.

tennesseevaluesauthority's picture


Sam, I don't know about NC but the first time I ever was served slaw on the sandwich was at a Memphis barbecue joint called "Little Pigs" on Highland near the Memphis State (now University of Memphis) campus. Mmm Mmm.

A friend of mine took me up to Ridgewood a few years ago to dine. It was pretty good. There's another one up there he swears by. I think it's called Firehouse or something.

I still prefer a Memphis dry-rub almost any day. NC bbq is fine if I'm craving vinegar and if I don't care how bland and ketchup-y my bbq tastes I'll settle down for a plate of Buddy's. There I said it.

Justin's picture

Love the Memphis dry rub.

Love the Memphis dry rub. You ever been to Charlie Vergos' Rendevous Ribs? Best damn ribs I've ever had...

tennesseevaluesauthority's picture

The Rendevous

The Rendevous has some great ribs, indeed. I was first introduced to it when I was a new resident to the city and some friends told me, "I just had to go." It was my first initiation into the society of the dry rub and my lord what a great discovery that school of barbecue was. Of course, as a cash-poor college student, I couldn't easily indulge in the Rendevous regularly. I soon found that there were plenty of great places to get a dry-rub fix including a little locally-owned set of restaurants known as Corky's. Yummy. When Corky's opened up some Knoxville locations I said, "Well, that's the end of Buddy's." Heh. I guess I missed that prediction.

If you like the vinegar-taste of NC barbecue mixed with Memphis style "wet" pulled pork, I highly recommend any of the local Tops Barbecue stands throughout the River City. There's also a great barbecue place on Central near the Cooper-Young neighborhood. The name currently escapes me, but I have gotten in the habit of stopping by for a bite when visiting friends in town.

Perhaps there should be a barbecue road trip from Mountain City to Memphis in Knoxviews' future?

WhitesCreek's picture

BBQ Road trip

Ok, I'm actually in Memphis for the state soccer championships and I've only been threatened by a Ref once so far, but Corky's dry rub rules so far. The Commissary may be the coolest place to eat but the pulled pork was cooked into more mush than food and "lite" ain't beer. A man gotta chew, people. Ribs should be slow smoked not boiled, and sauce comes in a thousand different perfect kinds. I need to taste them all to be happy before I die.

I'm a fair man, however, and I vow to return to Roane Mountain for several reasons, but barbeque is as good as any. As for North Carolina fare, everybody knows South Carolina has better, and the  mustard sauce is legendary, but any old country church fundraiser has a sandwich to die for. Volunteer fire departments are a close second.


Joe P.'s picture

truly great bbq

Haven't eaten there in years, but the memories are vivid and I've often suggested to friends and travelers it is well worth the trip. As my uncle used to say, that barbecue is so good you'll knock yourself out smacking your lips together so much.

I also love the fact it's a small place just off the side of the road. 

Midori Barstow's picture

M & M Catering

M & M Catering of Kingston, TN provides da Best  most generous local

bar-b-que every thursday, friday, and saturday off of

7409 Middlebrook Pike (across the street from an assisted living complex).

See their  menu:

Also, the sides and desserts are yummiest!!!

Jason's picture

Ridgview is good but if you

Ridgview is good but if you like BBQ your trip to this area would not be complete with out a trip to the red PIG in Jhonson City. The best more of a Eastern NC style. MMMMMM Goood. I got to go there noe just thinking about it. Have to drive by rideview on the way but I will not be stopping there.

Maui4me's picture

I tried the Red Pig after

I tried the Red Pig after about a twenty year lapse a few months ago at their new location and we (almost ten of us) decided rather quickly that it hardly qualified as barbecue for several reasons:

1. The meat wasn't smoked or if it was it wasn't over wood coals and had no smoky taste or texture whatsoever. It reminded me of Sunday pork shoulder cooked in a crockpot and quite bland.

2. It was pulled/chopped and didn't have a sauce heated with it. This drastically effects the flavor or the final product.

3. The "variety" of barbecue sauces on the table were mostly mediocre at best and in no frame of comparison were any of them anywhere close to the Ridgewood's legendary sauce.

I'm really sort of surprised that they stay in business with the Ridgewood's runner-up of Pardner's Barbecue in Piney Flats less than ten miles away. I guess the Red Pig is where you go when you want sort-of barbecue but don't want to spend the gas to go to a real barbecue joint. I've eaten at literally scores of barbecue joints throughout the south of many varying styles but The Ridgewood stands out as hands down the best pork barbecue I've eaten anywhere.

Buddy's might as well be Castleberry's canned pork with barbecue sauce as far as I'm concerned. That was mine and our group's first impression and no one could fathom how that they could have more than one location unless the gentle citizens of Knoxville suffered from Dysgeusia or had never eaten real barbecue before.

CBT's picture

I've posted it on here a

I've posted it on here a number of times. The Ridgewood has the best BBQ sandwich in America.

I don't think Randy mentioned it above, but the Ridgewood uses only hams, no shoulders. The hams are smoked (in the smokehouse/pit next to the restaurant) and sliced thin. The meat is kept warm on a grill and served with that fabulous sauce.

The sauce is secret. Only a couple of family members know it. Ms. Profitt told her son (who's a pharmacist in Elizabethton and still owns the restaurant). The only other one who knows it is his daughter, who's in her teens, I think. Her father wrote it down, taught her, made the recipe several times in one day when the place was closed and burned the paper. The recipe is only kept in two people's heads.

The fries are hand cut and fresh made. Same for the beans and slaw. Have some homemade blue cheese dressing and crackers (offered as an appetizer). It's just a fabulous place all the way around.

One other thing. Generally, unless you get there when they unlock the door, be prepared to wait. They line up quick, particularly for a place that's in the middle of nowhere.

It's a great motorcycle ride up through Greeneville (however you get there...Asheville Hwy, Sevierville, Newport), Jonesborough, Elizabethton...EAT at the Ridgewood...back down 11 to home.

When the state built the 4-lane from 11 over to Elizabethton they all said it would kill Ms. Profitt's restaurant. As you can see, it didn't happen. Not by a long shot.

A Nony Mouse's picture

Best in North America

I'm from Canada and had the distinct pleasure (especially for my tastebuds) of dining at the Ridgewood in September. Oh my goodness!!! Heaven in a pork sandwich! I brought home two jars of sauce and that wasn't enough! I need a case or more! Just for us!

S Carpenter's picture

Mmmm and the beans

"...silky pillows of legume lusciousness..." Roadfood

Anonymoose's picture

Red Pig Doesn't Compare

I've been a big fan of the Ridgewood for better than thirty years and I've eaten so-called bbq all over the country and still rate it #1 even over Gridley's in Memphis. I lived for a couple of years right next door to a Lexington-style bbq place in Clyde, NC back in the early eighties and it took awhile to get used to the very different style which I grew to accept but still missed the Ridgewood.

Back to the Red Pig: I ate there for the first time a few weeks ago. I was not impressed at all. The meat had no smoky taste in the slightest. It seems more like bland shredded pork should roast. It was pulled and extremely moist like it'd been sitting in it's juices. Even though there was a selection of sauces to choose from, I really didn't get excited about any of them. Their bbq slaw, which I wisely choose to be put on the side was a very salty and odd tasting, almost like Japanese pickled diakon radish. It wasn't complementary at all. The fries were just average and a rather small serving at that. Even though it was a little cheaper than Ridgewood, I'd gladly pay more and drive the ten more miles to Bluff City anytime a bbq craving hit me.

Anonymous's picture



RayCapps's picture

Heresy to confess this...

But the finest tasting barbecue ever to grace my taste buds came from Gates in... Kansas City. I'm sorry, but the president's platter was simply perfection - right down to there being enough on it to make two more meals. Now that I've bared my soul, I'll just turn in my CSA passport and slink off to my shameful banishment.

bizgrrl's picture

Kansas City is very proud of

Kansas City is very proud of their barbecue offerings. I never knew this until visiting there about ten years ago. I was expecting to visit a great steak joint (Kansas City strip and all), but the locals all wanted to go to barbecue. Who knew?

Alan Crowder's picture


As a lifelong resident of Johnson City I have been eating at Ridgewood for over 35 years. When I was little each birthday my father would take me out to eat and when he asked me where I would like to go I would always say Ridgewood even though he already knew the answer. I can remember so many years Mrs. Profitt and her habit of locking the doors exactly at closing time no matter how many people were in line. I think she just knew that people would be back no matter what. Even after her health began to decline and she had trouble getting around she would still be there sitting in a chair by the cash register greeting the customers. Many of the waitresses had been there so long that even someone who had worked there for 10 years was considered new. Many of them watched me grow up. Once I could drive I was able to enjoy it much more often. After I moved out my dad would still randomly call me and without even saying hello the first thing out of his mouth when I picked up the phone would be "Do you want to go to Ridgewood?" I made the mistake a few times of driving over on Mondays ( the one day that they were always closed) and had to leave disappointed. OOPS!! I remember Terry taking over the business and manning the cash register after Mrs. Profitt had to be placed in a nursing home. I was always impressed with the fact that they they stayed true to form by not expanding, franchising or reducing portions as many restaurants tend to do. I have been in the restaurant business since high school and I have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and have found some very,very good bbq. Putting aside the sentimentality of the restaurant and judging purely from a taste standpoint it is simply OUTSTANDING. Although my dad passed away in 1997 I continue the tradition of Ridgewood with my wife and sing its praises when the subject arises. I have an older sister who has not lived in the area for years but without fail each time she visits she not only makes a point to eat at Ridgewood but takes home at least a quart of the sauce (as well as a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and a Greg's pizza but thats another story) I'll sum it up as someone else has already said.....
IF YOU DONT"T LIKE THIS BBQ THEN YOU JUST DON'T LIKE BBQ!!!! Thank you dad. This review is for you. Alan Crowder

Maui4me's picture

As far as Ridgewood's

As far as Ridgewood's Barbecue Sauce being only known by Larry Profitt and his daughter, I think that is almost a legend that's not entirely true. From what I was told, the Profitt's were partners many years ago with the Bear family that now owns/owned Pardners Barbecue in Piney Flats, TN. After a parting of the ways long ago, the Profitt's retained the original recipe that the other partner wasn't allowed to duplicate totally. Pardners also pulls/chops the meat rather than slices it. The biggest difference was in the pepper/hot sauce and dry mustard content but that's not all. My mother was given a copy of the original recipe by way of an employee many, many years ago under circumstances I can't devulge. I've made this recipe several times of the years and can attest that it's Ridgewood's current recipe. If anyone would like to consider purchasing it for commercial purposes such as bottling, the bidding starts at $100K with the condition that the Ridgewood/Pardner's name never be used in conjunction with it. It is superior to any commercial barbecue sauce currently on the market and I'm not kidding. I never kid about quality barbecue.

Lance E Pants's picture

Ridgewood is Yum

Ridgewood is the best, hands down. All other BBQ seems like it comes form a plastic bowl at the grocery store after you have tasted the wonder that is Ridgewood BBQ. I don't understand how anyone would choose to eat other BBQ. That would be like going to Long John's when there is a Captain D's across the street. It just doesn't make any sense!

p.s. Last dude is really greedy, should be ashamed of himself. Many people around here know the recipe. Besides, I am converting to .pdf in a minute to save as evidence for the lawsuit, just in case.

BBQ Man's picture

Ridgewood Recipe

Hey Maui4me,
I don't know where your sources are from as far as the sauce recipe goes. But I know for a fact mine's right. And I'd start my bidding at half that price.

racerjon's picture

Whoever else "might" have

Whoever else "might" have the recipe, it doesn't matter. There will never be anything like going to Ridgewood and eating their fabulous BBQ in that little out of the way restaurant. Ridgewood is positively the greatest BBQ you will ever eat.

Extra Napkinator's picture


Any other bbq joint is, at best, a pretender. I would eat the panelling off the walls at that place. Smoky goodness covered in heavenly sauce!
Dang they're closed on Sunday. I'll just have to wait I guess.
I will be buried with a pint of their beans. That's heaven all by itself!

Dan O's picture


I enjoy just about every type of BBQ, having travelled extensively and tried local BBQ just about everywhere I could get it. I'm open to different types (NC/SC, TX, GA, coastal US, midwest, Pacific US, Europe, Asia) and different meats (lamb/mutton, beef, chicken & other fowl, etc.). I also smoke my own shoulders and other cuts. I say all of this to establish that I consider myself an expert (AN expert, not THE expert) concerning BBQ. I respect it and love it, as my favorite type of food.

Ridgewood Barbecue is the best barbecue sandwich that I have ever eaten, bar none. And I say this with deep reverence for those others that I have tried, mainly in Memphis (Cozy Corner, Payne's, the former Jango's) and Tuscaloosa (Dreamland), that make my mouth water. Ridgewood sits at the top of the group, IMHO.

To answer a question that was spawned by the article above, the meat that is served as "pork" at Ridgewood is ... ham. Smoked on-site, by those who know how.

I haven't tried EVERY barbecue that is available to try, so I'll say about Ridgewood what ex-coach Bum Phillips said about Earl Campbell, paraphrased:

"It may not be in a class by itself, but whatever class it's in doesn't take long to call the roll!"

Dan O

george's picture

The Food Is Great

The food at Rigdewood is great. But there is such bad management there.....Alot of the people there use very bad language. I really think there needs to be more management there. I know its a family owned busy but they can have better management there.

george's picture

Greed is the heart of the business

All they think about is money, they dont give a rats butt about their employees.Not a christian based place. Cursing all the time in front of customers.Talked to several other customers and they think the same... This place has went to hell since the main owner passed away. As a customer i heard alot of gossip while i was there. Had to wait a long time on food.

Meg Cash's picture

The Best in the South!

This has got to be the best BBQ I've ever had! Believe me, I've eaten BBQ all over the Southeast, and this one is definitely it!

Elwood Aspermonte's picture

It is really that good, tender meat, fabulous sauce

People roll in there from far and wide to grab a bite of that Ridgewood pig, business people from Atlanta just make up reasons to go to the tri cities to swing through Ridgewood for lunch/dinner.

Jon Clifton's picture


Ridgewood BBQ is absolutely the best anywhere. But when I go there, the first thing I order is their fantastic baked beans. My wife and may be out somewhere and I haven't tried stopping at any other BBQ places I pass because after Ridgewood, I don't think I'd be happy. But someday I'll try another place.

Elmer Gantry's picture

Ridgewood BBQ - suggestions

I reside within about 15 minutes of so of the Ridgewood BBQ, I would offer a few more suggestions here:

1) be prepared for Ridgewood BBQ customers lining up (inside the porch lobby or even outside) to be seated inside the restaurant;

2) arrive early when possible as the Ridgewood BBQ keeps some unusual hours that includes a two-hour break after the lunch rush;

Address: 900 Elizabethton Hwy, Bluff City, TN 37618
Phone:(423) 538-7543 (call ahead about Sunday hours, if any)
Hours: Open today · 11:00 am – 2:30 pm, 4:30 – 8:30 pm

3) in my experience, parking is usually limited at the Ridgewood BBQ (if you are planning to stop by in a RV, the Elizabethton Highway --- alternatively referred to as the "Bristol Highway" or the "Old Bristol Highway in nearby Elizabethton --- is a two-landed state highway and the Ridgewood BBQ itself is located between two broad hills and does not have any room for a driveway around the back on the restaurant;

4) if you are driving to the Ridgewood BBQ from Elizabethton, you can choose from two routes from Broad Street:
a) turn left onto North Lynn Avenue intersection at the McDonalds, drive further downhill on Lynn Avenue (going north) and across the new Bristol Bridge over the Watauga River to the two lane Bristol Highway (see above about the names) to the Ridgewood BBQ,



continue east for almost one mile on Broad Street and get into one of the two left turning lanes just past the Food City grocery store at the intersection with US Hwy 19E (north; traveling 16 miles of so south takes you to Roan Mountain, Tennessee)


and then follow the four lane across the Watauga River and onward toward Bluff City --- look for the Elizabethton Highway street signs on the left side of the four lane and then travel a couple minutes south to the Ridgewood BBQ.


5) unless you prefer smelling like deep fry grease for the rest of the day, ask to be seated at either of the far ends of the Ridgewood BBQ building --- if you take seating at the center part of the building were your order is being prepared, you will surely be smelling like the airborne grease coming off of that nearby deep fry cooker (this is one issue that the Ridgewood BBQ owners should better address);

6) one large order of Ridgewood BBQ french fries comes out on a sandwich plate and will satisfy two or three adults;

7) if you are ordering a large size sandwich, be sure to ask for a clam shell to take your "leftovers" back home with you.

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