A Tale of Two Barbecue Restaurants
By Rick Browne, PH.B.
BUBBA’S BBQ JOINT—The front door is unpainted, broken, hanging on one hinge, and has
Band-Aids covering rips in the screen, or maybe it doesn’t even have a door. “Y’all welcome to
Bubba’s,” someone yells out from behind a smoky curtain. The place is packed, noisy, and you
can barely see the counter for the crowd. The parking lot is full of pickup trucks, Harleys, old
VW buses, a Pinto, and a couple of electric cars the size of shoeboxes.
LE BARBEQUE RESTAURANT—After parking your own car, you wiggle through neatly parked
Bentleys, Rolls Royces, BMWs, and two Ferrari Testarosas. Seems the valet looked at your Dodge
Dart and refused to even get in it. The front door is carved from rare woods, has a polished brass
handle, and has a uniformed doorman standing by to open it for you. “A bienvenue to
Le Barbeque Magnifique,” he purrs. You enter and sit on an Italian leather couch beneath a framed,
BUBBA’S BBQ JOINT—You’re greeted by a 5-foot-2-inch-tall man who’s as wide as he is tall, wearing the remaining frayed wisps of a stained tank top, a torn, three year old paper fry cook’s hat, rubber thongs, and a dirty apron over pants that haven’t been washed in 6 months. It’s hard to understand what he’s saying because he is chomping on a two-inch-long remnant of a bad cigar and chewing a wad of tobacco the size of a golf-ball. He frequently uses a stained Styrofoam spit cup between words.
LE BARBEQUE RESTAURANT—The doorman introduces you to the maitre’d, Pierre LaSnoot, who’s dressed up like Fred Astaire-including the top hat, cane and spats-and who asks if you have reservations as he disdainfully discerns your net worth at a glance. You should have worn the Guccis, the Ralph Lauren pullover, or at least the DKNY slacks. When his monacled eye finds your name on the list, he reluctantly calls over a waiter dressed like an officer in Napoleon’s army. “Actually, monsieur, we do have a special table set aside tonight; we’re able to seat your party in the privacy of the Renaissance Room.”
BUBBA’S BBQ JOINT—You’re seated at a Formica-topped table that must have been stolen off the Sanford & Son set-one metal leg broken but held up by an upended tomato juice can, cobwebs dangling from the underside of one chair, a sticky substance on one corner of the table attracting a marching band of ants, another corner chewed away with obvious teeth marks. As you sit down you slip on a puddle of either blood or bbq sauce (your brother reaches over, tastes it, and gleefully announces “It’s sauce, man!”). Two long-dead flowers and some sort of green thing droop out of a cracked beer bottle. None of the chairs could have cost more than $1.99 and none match. Not just at your table, but in the entire room. Early Salvation Army Store describes the décor.
LE BARBEQUE RESTAURANT—You’re guided down a carpeted foyer into a dining room that looks like Liberace (or Prince) decorated it, and are seated at a table covered with white linen, Baccarat crystal, and a bouquet of perfect salmon pink and white roses. The tablecloth is a finer weave that your bedroom sheets. The chandelier could have been used in the Palace of Versailles, the sterling silver probably came from Buckingham Palace, and the chairs are better than you have in your living room. In fact, they’re probably better than those at Buckingham Palace. You drop a fork and can’t find it in the two-inch-thick, antique Persian pile.
BUBBA’S BBQ JOINT—After noting the quaint ambiance of neon beer signs, 1950’s tool shop calendars adorned with half-naked “models,” multicolored strands of ceiling-mounted fly paper (many of which are moving due to the heavy population of still-living flies trapped on them), and a rotating floor-mounted fan that alternatively emits a teeth-gnashing whine or a sound not unlike metal pieces being shoved through a meat grinder. The busboy hands your wife a well-used fly swatter, “just in case.”
LE BARBEQUE RESTAURANT—The tuxedoed, five-piece orchestral group begins a selection of Strauss waltzes as you are being seated. The collection of classical and contemporary paintings, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been featured in Architectural Digest, and is perfectly accented by the French lace curtains and Viennese velvet draperies. Your waiter (you discover it’s actually your waiter’s “first assistant”) glides by and welcomes you as he hands your lady a perfect, imported red rose from Paris as he whispers “Bon Appetite.”