4.30.2012

Road Trip: Barbequest!


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Top: Up and at'em for our first stop at the Heine Bros. Airstream for morning coffee. Bottom: My road trip read! Louisville was featured as the weekend getaway in MSL!

Yesterday, we embarked on a quest to find Kentucky's best barbecue. A barbequest, if you will. Kentucky is brimming with ancestral meat wisdom and tradition (don't forget, we're a notch on the World's great Ham Belt), and it was high time that we got wise to the unique and renowned barbecue hailing from the western reaches of the state. There are several points throughout the south where Barbecue is a big deal - Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, the Carolinas and Kentucky. Here, Owensboro is the place, and barbecued mutton is king! I'd never experienced either, so it was a true adventure.

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Owensboro is only a two hour drive from Louisville, and getting there was a breeze, if not a little goofy. To get there from Louisville, it's best to drive North through Indiana, then loop back down along I-64 through Hoosier National Forest. You cross the Ohio River again before you're in the barbecue capital. I swear, upon entering the city, we thought we smelled barbecue!

Delorians and BBQ
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The dudes were stoked on the Delorean for sale and on display outside of Moonlite Bar-B-Q. Delorean worship, along with barbefarts and Rick Flair-esque proclamations of "Woo!" come with the territory when you are a lone female on a barbequest with three manimals. 

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Top: Barbecue ribs and mutton at Moonlite Bar-B-Q. / Bottom: Burgoo and corn cakes from Old Hickory.

Our barbequest took us to two popular barbecue establishments, Moonlite Bar-B-Q and Old Hickory. Traditional Owensboro barbecue is smoked long and slow over hickory-stoked fires. On both menus, we found barbecued chicken, beef, and pork, though the quintessential KY barbecue is mutton. Why mutton? Apparently the Welsh settlers of Davies County raised enormous herds of sheep, so when it came to roasting meat, mutton was the natural choice. Another popular menu item was the burgoo, one of Kentucky's regional specialties. Burgoo is a stew with no standardized recipe, though it's agreed that it should be comprised of anything that ever walked or flew. (Sometimes it's been jokingly referred to as "roadkill stew" ... oh, Kentucky.) Owensboro happens to also be the burgoo capital of the world, and here it is often made with pork, beef and more mutton ... surprise, surprise!

It was clear that both places took barbecue very seriously, though I think I prefer Moonlite if pressed to choose sides. Moonlite has a more touristy, family-friendly feel, but unlike most attractions of that nature, the food was totally legit. All of the locals were eating the buffet, so we shrugged off the menu and followed their lead. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked, with the trademark hickory smoked flavor. I'd also like to add that the rhubarb pie was a dream, though Kurt would say that if you go to a barbecue place to eat anything other than meat, you're missing the point. (But really, you should try it.)

Perhaps it isn't fair that we ate at Old Hickory on a full stomach, only a mere hour and a half after a buffet of epic proportions ... Nevertheless, our barbequest crew was made up of some serious barbecue fanatics, and we agreed that Old Hickory fell short in the realms of service and quality. As I understand it, Owensboro is split between barbecue allegiances. Have you been to either of these places? What did you think?

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From top: Barbequest crew; Bryan, Kurt and Chubbs. / Ice cream! / Barbecoma.

Thinkin' about setting out on a Kentucky barbequest? Here are some other fun things to do while you're in Owensboro:

-Barbecue enthusiasts from all over the world are going to the International Barbecue Festival in on May 11th and 12th.
- ROMP Fest sounds cool. Eat barbecue while seeing bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and the Punch Brothers! June 28th-30th.
International Bluegrass Music Museum.

5 comments:

  1. This is pure brilliance! I have long been trying to convince my boyfriend to go on a "food road trip" with me. And BBQ would comprise most of this. Also included: southern soul food, New England seafood and Creole food (It would be a long road trip). I freaking love BBQ. Mmm.

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  2. I prefer moonlite! The strawberry rhubarb pie is to die for! You were only 20 mins from mom and dad(I just saw them. I get to see them about once a year) You were 30 mins from my sis Lisa and her fam and the farm. I haven't seen Lisa in 3 years. I miss them.
    And Briénna, Lisa's oldest daughter, was Jr Miss Bar B Que fest (international fest) a couple of years ago! LOL Hope you had fun!

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  3. The word 'barbefart' is possibly the best thing I have read all day.

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