Barbecue satisfies a unique niche, pleasing nearly all member demographics.
True barbecue is a distinctly American culinary tradition. It relies on meat that has been cooked slowly over indirect heat—usually wood—for a really long time (sometimes upwards of 18 hours). The resulting flavor is a delicious combination of smoke, juices, fat and whatever spices or rub have been added.
Barbecue varies by region, with the four main styles named after their place of origin: Memphis, Tenn.; North Carolina; Kansas City; and Texas. Each style has a loyal and passionate following.
But barbecue’s fan base isn’t confined to those four hot spots. In one style or another, it satisfies nearly all member demographics from young to old, in nearly all settings from casual to upscale, and at nearly all times from lunch to dinner.
Few other cuisines can do that.
Going Whole Hog
When the Kiawah Island (S.C.) Golf Resort was in need of a concept change in 2011 for the restaurant inside its Osprey Point Clubhouse, Chef de Cuisine Jason Cote suggested upscale barbecue.
“The concept before had been kind of generic,” says Cote, who has been with Kiawah since 2008. “We wanted to reinvent the restaurant and create a destination.”
Four years later, Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House is still hot, averaging 250 covers a night on a typical evening.
Unlike most barbecue joints where baskets stand in for plates and wet wipes serve as napkins, Cherrywood maintains the look and feel of a more traditional club restaurant, with china, tableside service and extensive beer and wine lists. (The beer list features over sixty local, imported, draft and craft beers.)
Plus, Cherrywood offers barbecue alongside “Ale House specialties” like goat cheese gnocchi and bourbon-glazed salmon. “Our menu is structured to maximize appeal,” says Cote.
Cherrywood’s ‘que includes an overnight beef brisket (pictured above), sliced to order and piled high; a free-range half chicken that is herb-brined, then smoked over oak and hickory; smoked St. Louis-style ribs that are either rubbed with Cote’s special spice blend or mopped with his maple chipotle rib sauce; and pulled pork shoulder sourced from a nearby farm.
Each platter is served with cast-iron cornbread and one signature side selected from choices ranging from a four-cheese mac to bbq pit beans to bacon-braised collards.
“Quality ingredients are probably the most important starting point when it comes to barbecue,” says Cote, who tries to source as locally as possible. “From there, it’s all about ‘low and slow,’ with lots of smoke.”
Despite its name, Cherrywood relies on a blend of hickory and oak.
“Occasionally, we’ll use cherrywood,” says Cote. “It imparts a sweeter flavor, but it’s hard to source reliably.”
The Country Club of Roswell (Ga.) also likes to use cherrywood when available, but relies on applewood and oak as well for its weekly Wednesday barbecue.
“We used to do a family buffet on Wednesdays,” says Greg Volle, Roswell’s Executive Chef. “But it unintentionally alienated a lot of our older members.”
So when some of Roswell’s younger families grew tired of the buffet, Volle and his team turned family night into barbecue night, offering 24-hour-brined half-chickens alongside a rotating menu of brisket, ribs and other cuts.
“We start the smoker at noon,” says Volle. “And the smell reaches all corners of the property.”
That tantalizing smell helps to now lure members, young and old, to Roswell’s dining room.
“Instead of only seeing families on Wednesdays, we now see the whole spectrum of members,” says Volle. “Everyone loves barbecue.”
Small-scale BBQ, Big-scale Results
At Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, barbecue is a big part of the club’s relatively small dining program, which averages $500,000 in F&B annually and focuses primarily on farm- and garden-to-table fare.
Nick Baker, Old American’s Executive Chef, has been perfecting the art of barbecue for nearly his entire life, even competing in bbq competitions. He fires up the club’s smoker Tuesday through Sunday, to create everything from beef brisket to St. Louis-cut pork ribs.
“We focus on dry rubs,” says Baker, who uses a careful blend of local chili powder, cumin, kosher salt, coarse white pepper, paprika, garlic and herbs from Old American’s garden, which he purees with olive oil to create his signature seasoning. “We smoke the brisket at around 210°F for 16 hours. We do ribs and other cuts around 250°F.”
For those looking for sauce, Old American offers a homemade tomato-based version that features chili powder, Dijon, brown sugar, garlic and black pepper.
“The key to good barbecue is temperature,” says Baker, who agrees with Kiawah’s Cote that quality ingredients are a mandatory starting point. “We go to local meat markets, so we can pick out the best of what’s available each day. For some cuts, especially brisket, I need to be able to pick it up and bend it. I need to feel if it’s firm, not fatty or flimsy.”
Old American serves its barbecue in a number of ways: on sandwiches, in specials with different breads and sides, or as platters paired with other meats like sausage.
“When it comes to barbecue, we do it all,” says Baker. “And it adds a lot of value to our operation. It creates an atmosphere and adds ambiance. It gets people excited. You can smell it cooking on the golf course, so even if you weren’t hungry when you got here, you will be before you leave.”