Tired and hungry after a day of sleuthing for stories, I asked a customer at the Parrish gas station where I could get a good sandwich in town. Without hesitation, he replied: “C&K Smoke House. It’s the best barbecue in the world.”
“Really? In the world?” I asked, slightly amused.
“Yes, in the world!” said the man emphatically. “And I know, because I’ve been all over the world.”
It seemed fitting to choose a lunch of barbecue, considering that May is the unofficial “National Barbecue Month.” So I headed over to the small white country building that was C&K Smoke House BBQ, fronted by a nice airy porch equipped with picnic tables.
I walked into the restaurant and was greeted by the server behind the counter with a loud and hearty “Welcome!”
I ordered the smoked chicken sandwich with their homemade sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. It was a large hearty portion of delicately smoked chicken on a soft bun, and although I don’t pretend to be an expert on barbecue, I have to say it was delicious.
Owned and operated by Carl and Kim Rhodes and located in the heart of Parrish, C&K Smoke House BBQ describes itself as “real Southern-Style Barbecue.” Their menu features pulled-pork sandwiches, sliders, chicken sandwiches, Cubans and full family meals with your choice of sides. I was impressed with the friendly atmosphere, the generous portions and the tempting smoky scent of the place.
“This is homestyle cooking at its best,” said one customer. “We live in Parrish, and we eat here almost every week. Their prices are so reasonable, we can bring the whole family.”
“Everyone here is so friendly,” said another. “They really have the Southern hospitality down pat — they make you feel like family.”
Patrons order off the illustrated overhead menu featuring ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and sides of mashed potatoes, baked beans, green beans, collard greens, okra, mac and cheese and corn on the cob. For dessert, you can choose from chocolate or lemon bundt cake, pecan pie or sweet potato pie.
Barbecue connoisseurs will tell you that merely throwing meat on a grill and smothering it with store-bought BBQ sauce is not really barbecue, at least not in the South. The real thing has be slow-cooked over indirect heat for a really long time (sometimes for as many as 18 hours). The resulting flavor is a combination of smoke, meat juices and whatever spices or rub you can dream up.
Historically, barbecue varies by region, with the four main styles named after their place of origin: Memphis, Tenn.; North Carolina; Kansas City; and Texas. Memphis is renowned for pulled-pork shoulder doused in sweet tomato-based sauce (eaten on its own or as a sandwich). North Carolina smokes the whole hog in a vinegar-based sauce. Kansas City natives prefer ribs cooked in a dry rub, and Texans favor mesquite-grilled “cowboy-style” brisket.
The first half of the 20th century saw a mass migration of African-Americans from the rural South to northern cities, and as they moved, they brought their tried-and-true family barbecue recipes with them.
By the 1950s, African-American-owned barbecue joints had sprouted up in nearly every city in America. Along with fried chicken, corn bread and hush puppies, barbecue came to be known as “soul food.” To this day, there is a strong connection between barbecue recipes and the African-American community.
C&K Smoke House BBQ is at 12125 U.S. 301 N. in Parrish. For more information, visit cksmokehousebbq.com or call 941-776-1440.