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Mom-and-pop barbecue joint settles into perfect location

Mom-and-pop barbecue joint settles into perfect location

The cars filling the parking lot and the line of customers ordering from the counter are a promising sign for Granny & Pop’s Old Fashion Bar-B-Q, which has been open just over a month. This little restaurant’s early—and one hopes continued—popularity is as much a testament to its high visibility at the corner of Wedgewood and 12th Avenue South as to its culinary accomplishments. Granny & Pop’s has cleverly filled the vacuum of cheap eats in this location, straddling the Belmont University/12South neighborhoods to the south and the Edgehill housing projects to the north. And they’re offering a product that both sides of the border have apparently been hungry for.

That would include pork shoulder sandwiches, whole barbecued chickens, hot fish sandwiches, beef and pork ribs, and the typical barbecue joint accoutrements: white beans, baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw, and potato salad. A big smoker jutting out the backside is encouraging—no fancy, preprogrammed computer cooking at Granny & Pop’s.

If you call ahead, the phone might be answered like this: “Granny & Pop’s, this is Pop.” That would be owner Collier M. James Sr. Granny, his wife, is Jean Palmer James. Their daughters and son also work there. Pop was born down the street at 1610 12th Ave. N. and has been cooking barbecue all his life, though this is his first restaurant.

A sign out front lures customers inside with the promise of the “Best Ribs Since Adam.” I couldn’t resist the temptation and ordered a slab ($15.50), along with a shoulder sandwich, a hot fish sandwich, and a half-chicken. During our 10-minute wait, we entertained ourselves by watching the man who was painting cheery holiday scenes on the storefront windows. You can eat in at one of four tables in the clean, small dining room, or you can take your order bagged to go, as we did.

Hefty enough to feed two adults, with a few bones to throw at the children, the ribs were cooked to falling-off-the-bone tenderness with a crispy char on the outside. They were also quite flavorful, thanks to Pop’s marinading/spicing procedure. But I have my doubts that Adam’s rib could have been this fatty; I’ve always pictured the biblical genesis of man and womankind as a pretty lean specimen. One taste-tester swore he could feel his arteries blocking even as he enjoyed the sinful indulgence.

If you’re watching your cholesterol, sample instead a shoulder sandwich ($2.75) or plate ($4.50 with two side orders). The shredded pork was moist, the smoky meat piled high on the bun. Delivered on the side, Granny & Pop’s stellar barbecue sauce is vinegary with a distinct kick. The secret recipe was passed on to Pop more than 30 years ago from a barbecue mentor. He says it only comes in one version; if you prefer less heat, use less sauce.

The half-chicken had been in the smoker just a tad too long on my visit—the meat had dried out under its well-seasoned skin, and its scrawniness didn’t warrant the $5 price tag. (A whole chicken is $9, a mark-up that surprises me, given Granny & Pop’s other bargains.)

The fish sandwich ($3.25) consists of whiting filets rolled in cornmeal, then deep-fried; it comes on two slices of white bread with raw onion, mustard, hot sauce, and pickles. I’ll bet these filets were delivered boxed and frozen; on the fish-sandwich satisfaction meter, it falls about in the middle. The white beans, cooked with ham and onion, were very peppery—the perfect thing for a drizzly winter night. All orders come with plenty of pickles and slices of white bread.

In its original incarnation, the Granny & Pop’s building was a Church’s Fried Chicken franchise, but for the past several years it has been vacant and boarded up. (There was a very brief stab at Chinese takeout, a venture that took far longer to open than it did to close.) The idea of a barbecue restaurant in this area seems so obvious that I can’t help wonder why no one tried it before. Hats off to the Palmers for giving it a shot.

Much ado about brew

Ultimate Beer is a new coffee-table-sized book sporting an eye-catching cover and a clean, crisp design. It should earn senior art editor Tim Scott and beer stylist Owen D.L. Barstow bonuses. (Who would imagine “beer stylist” was a career choice?) The author is Michael Jackson—who, as far as I know, has had no drastic plastic surgery, keeps no exotic animals as pets, and wears both gloves when he needs them. This Michael Jackson, according to the obligatory press material, is a world-renowned beer connoisseur and host of a documentary series titled The Beer Hunter.

In Ultimate Beer you will learn the history of beer, how it is made, which beers will satisfy particular needs (seasonal, sociable, restorative), which beers go with certain foods, how to pour beer, and how to taste it.

The section devoted to cooking with beer notes that “beer was first made for its nutritional value.” We knew that all along. Catalogued are beers for vinaigrettes, marinades, soups, stews, braising, basting, baking, and even desserts; a recipe is included for each. In particular, the Mussels in India Pale Ale sounds wonderfully delectable, and it plugs savvy epicurians right into the food trend of the moment—Belgian cuisine.

More than 450 classic brews are described. Of local interest is the inclusion of Boscos Famous Flaming Stone in the section about beers recommended with smoked foods. Jackson calls Boscos “an American pioneer of stone beer.”

Ultimate Beer ($29.95) is published by DK Publishing Inc. I am declaring it the ultimate answer to the perennial holiday question of “what to get a man you’re dating regularly but don’t want to appear too serious about?” Add a six-pack of a winter warmer like Orkney Skullsplitter and declare yourself the ultimate woman.

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