Friday, October 21, 2005

Not Like Chicago
Tallahassee, Florida

Yea, Tallahasse aint like Chicago, but specifically, when I finished up the bit of business I had in Tallahase yesterday, I said to one of the people I was with, well, the standard Chowhound question: "got any good suggestions for dinner?" We went thru the usual process of trying to match needs and wants. They asked me, what was I looking for, and I said "not like Chicago."

I had already had lunch not like Chicago. Sonny's is a franchised BBQ chain, but it arose in Florida, so I felt reasonably authentic stopping there. More important, Sonny's symbolizes the difference between Q down there and up here. You just cannot seem to combine a place that smells real with a restaurant that is real up here--and real I mean with menus, tables, pop in glasses, etc. Yea, Sonny's is a bit cute the way most Southern BBQ restaurants these days are cute, but like I say, they are actually smoking stuff.

Smoking stuff well? As a tourist, I had to sample, and forsake the lunch specials for a Pig 3 Way special with pulled pork, sliced pork, and spareribs. Of these, only Sonny's original, the sliced pork, truly stood out. The pulled pork was mushy and watery (is mushy by its nature, watery?); the ribs had a nice hickory flavor but were way to mono-dimensional in flavor. The slice pork was exactly what you cannot get around here, meaty, porky, moist, with real flavor that did not hide when your squeezed some sauce over it. In the pantheon of great BBQ, you will not find Shorty's, but for a boychick in town, it was not like Chicago in the best of ways.

And I wanted more. The original dinner suggestion was Bonefish Grill. I am sure that was the safe, we do not wanna scare the boychick suggestion. I feigned interest. I was thinking these are just not foodies, and no form of pressing would get me anywhere. I figgered I'd thank them for the Bonefish Grill, pretend like that was a good choice and just skedadle. I have other sources you know...Luickily for me, they read through the falsity in my, "mm Bonefish Grill, sounds fine..." The said, what about Seineyard, in Woodville? I was not convinced 'til they said, "at Bonefish you get real plates, Seineyard gives you paper plates."

Well what kinda guy like us does not race out with a hook like that? Yet, I never did eat at Seineyard (and it turns out it probably would have been a good meal.) I rode past Seineyard a bit too early for dinner. I decided to drive around and find a hotel for the night nearby (which turned out to be useless both because there are no hotels in Woodville and I ended up flying back last night). A bit past Seineyard I passed Register's Country BBQ. This was in some ways, less a Not Chicago BBQ place, as our classic local Q places are shacks without tables, etc. Still, no one in Chicago is cooking their BBQ outdoors.

I had a bit of conversation with the folks at Register. They told me that Florida did not allow true pits anymore, that you had to have some kinda walls around the smoker. So, his barrall smoker was in a porch surrounded by a four foot fence. Fans blew the smoke AWAY from the store, which I guess is a sign of confidence. He let me try a bit of rib tip while he fixed up my chopped pork sammy. What a rib tip, crusty, fully of flavor, yet not the least bit greasy. The sandwich was marred by the fact that he nuked it. He regaled me with a lot of local lore. It only takes about 5 miles south to not only be Not Chicago, but Not Tallahasse either. Not too far from Woodville is a civil war battle site, where I was told the Rebs whipped the Yanks, one of the few victories for that side in that part of the world. In honor of this event, the locals do a re-enactment every year. They like the winning part. I hope this gives you a sense of his sentiments, sentiments discussed in other BBQ threads. Of course, of course, of course, go for the food.

Pretty much filled up on Q, I continued to explore. I did not realize until my discussion, how close Tallahassee is to the water. I decided to visit the coast (so to speak), which is quite bayou like. I wandered the town of St. Marks Florida where boats outnumber cars and where there are quite a few seafood markets. I asked around and was told to go to Nicholl's. The menu at Nicholls looked good, but it was early and I was stuffed. But by then, I was also on a 7 PM flight back to Chicago, and I knew I had to eat soon. Early dinner for me.

Fried shrimps, fried mullet, hush puppies, cheese grits, I was blissfully not in Chicago. I'm not much of a mullet expert. Mine last night was a fishy-fish, almost like mackeral. It grew on me as I ate it. The shrimps, well, shrimps just do not taste like that around here, so fresh. Best of all to me, the carb guy, however, was the sweet hushpuppies.

I do not have the addresses for any of the places but they are all along Woodville Highway (Florida 363) heading South from Tallahasse, first Seineyard, then Register (both on the West side of the road) and finally Nicholl's when you get near the end of the road.

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