I’d Call it a Hole in The Wall…

…but that would be disrespectful to actual holes.

I haven’t mentioned it but I was in Chattanooga, TN fo several days over the last two weeks for work – oh, the exciting places I get to – and I had a fun night out with two of my buddies on the crew in a local barbeque joint.

(Actually, Chattanooga’s a lot of fun, the downtown is very walker-friendly and they have a great Aquarium there.)

One of our nights there we got off early enough to do some wandering around downtown, and feed my barbeque fixation. We’d seen several places we wanted to try, and one chain – Famous Dave’s – that we didn’t, but I was obsessed with a place about 3 blocks from our hotel.

It was the classic hole-in-the-wall joint – crumbling like a biscuit, one window boarded up, an enormous smoker parked on the sidewalk outside (I wonder if they take it in at night?), and old guys sitting around out front. I suppose they were playing dominos but even that was to much effort, since we were in the middle of a heat wave and it was 95 degrees at 9 pm. So mostly they were sitting around sweating.

We tooled in – me, ravenous as ever, Andy the Gay Biker, and our loyal assistant Kari, who would probably rather have eaten at Applebee’s – and took seats at a battered formica table with one short leg. The place was clean, if you didn’t look to closely. If you looked closely you felt slightly sick. A woman as battered as the table came out and took our orders. She had the short leg issue too. It was the kind of place that, instead of ordering off the menu, it was safer just to ask what was available. You avoid disappointment.

The service was slow – the waitress may have also been the cook – but it gave us time to admire the decor, which was done in Early American Homeless Shelter. Everything that was there, had been there, for a verrrrry long time. And had the dust coat to prove it. The only thing gleaming in the flickering flourescent light was a wall of barbeque trophies. There must have been fifty of them. I’m not sure where they came from – this didn’t look like an operation that went on the road – but they were lovingly polished and displayed.

Our food was great. It had to be, in a place like that. It had authenticity by the bucket. Andy and Kari got ribs, I got chopped pork, tender and juicy with bits of crackling. The ribs were better. I know because I stole some of Andy’s. The mac and cheese was rad. The fried okra was out. Damn. How can you run out of okra? Andy got fries instead. I went for pasta salad. What the hell I was thinking I don’t know. It was terrible.

The rib sauce was the Georgia sweet tomato-y style, with an intriguing bitter edge that may have been herbal or may have been from baking in a pot on the top of the stove all day. Still not quite sure. We polished it off while listening to an older man in the corner booth ramble loudly about the drug trade in the neighborhood and the government. All atmospheric southern diners have a guy like this. I think it’s in the building codes. Gorged on pork, we left huge tip and waddled out into the night, steaming slightly in the humid air.

I’d give you the name so you could try it yourself, but the neon sign out front was broken, so I couldn’t read the name. It started with an F. Franks? that sounds right. But trust me, when you see it you’ll know you are in the right place. Your common sense will be saying, “run! run like the wind!” but your nose will be luring you in, like a character in a cartoon, your feet trailing helplessly behind…

Heed the scent of the pork.

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