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Boss Hogg BBQ

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Adventures don’t have to be big or complicated for me to be excited about them.  I don’t need to travel to some exotic place, far from everything that’s familiar.  I just enjoy going to someplace new, even if it’s close to home.  As long as I’m experiencing something different, I’m happy.  Oh, and usually the smaller the location, the better.

When my oldest said she wanted to attend Mississippi State for undergrad, I saw the potential for adventure.  I had been to Starkville only once before, and it was over two decades ago.  I also knew there wasn’t much between Tuscaloosa and Columbus, just small towns and mother nature.  But small towns always hold the potential for some really good comfort food.  While her studies came long before Chase appeared, our trips to and from campus delivered some barbecue adventures for the books.

I stopped in Reform while on the way to an MSU football game.  I intentionally had a late breakfast so I could have a late lunch, hoping I would find an open barbecue joint along the way.  Boss Hogg was the ticket, right on Highway 82 in the heart of town, just beckoning me to come in.  The first thing you notice upon entering are the American flags and Jesus posters.  This is small town Alabama where we hold our values close to our heart and share them respectfully.  I also found four men in the dining room watching the Colorado game, one of Coach Prime’s early, electrifying displays.  They were talking college football and giving each other the business.  They caught me laughing at their chiding and pulled me into their game.  I learned that all of them were either employees or members of the family that ran Boss Hogg.  As they began thinning out, I ended up talking with one gentleman who bragged on the fried catfish and how people were lined up out the door when it was served.  There’s no better meat combination than pulled pork and fried catfish.  For me, today was about just the barbecue.

Boss Hogg serves a true pulled pork that I describe as fast smoked.  It has a gentle smoke flavor with a good bit of the fat left unrendered.  That leaves it moist and delivers flavor, but be alert if you have sensory issues with texture.  The meat has a nice chew and is accompanied by a side of red sauce.  I remember there was something really unique about it, a flavor profile I couldn’t recognize.  It was good and a great pairing with the meat, but it bothered me that I couldn’t identify the mystery ingredient.  More on that in a minute.

The baked beans were a star for me.  They were served smoking hot with bell pepper being front and center.  Texture came from chunks of pepper and onion in a tomato base reinforced with bold spices.  It was a complex, layered side that will wake up your taste buds without burning them down.

I was grateful I ordered the potato salad to cool my palate.  It was a mix or large cut potatoes, cooked firm, and celery with a standard mayo and mustard dressing.  The flavors were familiar and comforting and I always appreciate a coarse potato salad for the texture.  All together, this was a really good meal.

On the way out I couldn’t help myself.  I went to the front counter to ask the owner about the sauce.  It went like this…

Me: “Can you tell me what’s in the barbecue sauce?”

Him: “Naaawwww.”

Me: “It’s tomato or ketchup based.”

Him: “Yeeessss.”

Me: “It’s got something different in it.”

Him: “I know. I can’t tell you my secret.”

His friendly laugh told me I wouldn’t get the answer, but he was happy to humor me.  It amused me too and I wrote down our exchange.  This is the type of fun you find in local joints, good-humored banter with strangers that feel like friends.  But if any of you can get him to share the secret ingredient with you, please let me know.

Bonus points:

Order at counter

Coke products

TV with sports

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