Nothing screams "Southern" more than Bar-B-Q. Long before Statesboro was famous for its Eagles, it was known as the Bar-B-Q Capital of the South. In fact, many argue that the center of the Bar-B-Q universe is located in the heart of downtown Statesboro, in a large Bar-B-Q pit behind the cinderblock building that houses the legendary Vandy's Bar-B-Q. The pit is one of only three wood-fired pits still in existence in Georgia. The smell of the loaded pit has been welcoming guests to town since 1929.
For over three-quarters of a century, a visit to Vandy's has become a rite of passage for all newcomers to the Boro. It is a Southern initiation of sorts. Southern Bar-B-Q is a delicacy so phenomenal that we could never expect anyone living above the gnat line to ever understand its perfection.
Not since the death of Lewis Grizzard has anyone with the ability to pen a sentence living in the "other Georgia" been able to understand the perplexities, mysteries, admiration, loyalty, chivalry and irresistible flavor that is Southern Bar-B-Q. Actually, there is nothing that defines a Southerner more than Bar-B-Q, other than maybe an ice cold beer straight out of the cooler on the back of Marcel Ledbetter's log truck. But I digress.
For years, people have tried to improve on the perfection that is Southern Bar-B-Q, only to fall flat. What most big-city cooks can't seem to figure out is that Bar-B-Q is the one food item that is more than just food. It represents us. It is us. No one will ever stroll into town and dazzle us with smoke and mirrors and try to deceive a true Southerner regarding the foundation of great Bar-B-Q.
I called together the local Bar-B-Q royalty for an early morning "prayer meeting" in the cathedral of Bar-B-Q (Vandy's downtown) to discuss the State of Bar-B-Q in the Boro. In attendance were Brandon O'Mahoney, owner of Vandy's; Stacy Underwood, owner of Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place; Travis Phillips, owner of The Painted Chef; and Olivia Aseron Willett, owner of Shane's Rib Shack.
These four owners are not only masters of the culture and taste of excellent southern Bar-B-Q, but they are impeccable business leaders whose contributions to our community are unmatched. Together, they represent 54 years of ownership of successful restaurants in the Boro. They employee 192 of the hardest-working, best looking and nicest men and women you will ever meet. Together, they can cook nearly 2 tons of Bar-B-Q in a single day.
They pay their bills, treat their employees fairly, and instead of telling others how great they are and pointing out the errors of their competitors' ways, they choose instead to stay out of the limelight. Their golden rule was penned by Erk: "Do right." By doing this, they don't have to continually shake down their family and friends for hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments just to keep their doors open. They are Southern. They get it.
"We have discovered that this community knows great Bar-B-Q. They expect the highest quality meats, freshest vegetables and the best ingredients possible," O'Mahoney said. "It is these loyal customers that support us day in and day out that make our businesses successful and inspire us to work harder to please them in every way."
The group agreed that this is their focus daily. Of course, all of them have their signature favorites that keep their customers coming back. For Vandy's, it is the pulled pork, slow cooked and pit fired over Bulloch County oak, and their legendary Brunswick stew. This combination has garnered Vandy's the title of the Best Bar-B-Q in Georgia - maybe even the world - by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on two occasions.
Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place's chicken and ribs tie as customer favorites. They both are marinated with Shug's special rubs, slow cooked to perfection and sided with BBQ baked beans.
The "bad boy" of Bar-B-Q, The Painted Chef, is known for his coffee-rubbed, smoked-to-perfection brisket, which is the best you have ever put in your mouth, complimented with his signature bread pudding.
Shane's, even though it is a locally owned franchise, still hangs with the locals. Their fans love their slow-cooked chicken sided with mac and cheese, topped with one of their famous sauces.
I love the South. I love good people, and I love great Bar-B-Q. I salute these four entrepreneurs and their staff for firing up those pits and grills early every morning to keep our heritage alive, 1 pound of delicious Bar-B-Q at a time. I am happy to report that the State of Bar-B-Q in the Boro is alive and going strong, thanks to you.
Please email DeWayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (912) 489-9499.