For some unknown reason, quality bbq eludes Columbia like the plague. Serious bbq aficionados are left a) settling for mediocre, b) learning how to make it themselves or c) traveling to Kansas City. Nobody can extol the virtues of Buckingham’s, Bandana’s or Smokin’ Chicks with a straight face having been to the mountaintop (which could be any of a number of KC establishments, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa or Maurice’s Piggy Park in Columbia, SC). Columbia’s too good of a town to not have at least one great place for ‘cue, but we don’t even have that (it’s been a while, but I seem to remember the late Sutton’s being a quality spot).
Unfortunately, the newly-opened Lampert’s Plush Pig doesn’t take us any further in the right direction. The menu listed fried pickles, mac and cheese and the usual assortment of smoked meats. All I tasted was salt. Lots and lots of salt. Blood pressure-spiking mountains of salt. Now, smoking meat was historically about preservation first and foremost; salt plays a role in that as well. But the Plush Pig shovels it so wantonly onto your plate I quickly downed the (just thawed out and flavorless) green beans simply to even things out.
The worst offender was the fried pickles. Done well, this Southern specialty provides a tart, crisp break from the heaviness of a platter of sausage and baked beans, for instance. It’s a palate cleanser. These nuked my tastebuds with so much sodium I was left gulping water after a single, pallid chip. The sausage and to a lesser extent the ribs followed suit. Only the smokeless, forgettable pulled pork escaped the salt lick effect.
The ribs proved decent; the “regular” and “spicy” bbq sauces were excellent, though the “Alabama gold” sauce would not have been out of place in a Happy Meal, so much did it resemble McDonald’s honey mustard.
I hear there is bbq to be had in Jefferson City at Lutz’. Some place in Rolla. It’s clearly time to venture further afield.