Here's Why You Should Never Order A Salad At A Barbecue Restaurant

Pull into the parking lot of a great barbecue restaurant, and even before you make it to the front door, you should already be anticipating a great meal. If you're at a truly noteworthy 'cue joint, you'll step out of your car and be wreathed immediately in heavenly incense. The smoke from a pit filled with slow-burning hickory wood will carry with it the divine hints of pork, beef, and chicken cooked for hours at low heat. And it's all just waiting inside for you to enjoy. It's easy to understand, and perhaps quite appropriate, that the true barbecue lover won't necessarily be thinking about side dishes as he or she gets ready to enjoy some smoked-just-right delight for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner.

But some side dishes deserve a place alongside a serving of barbecue, according to no less an authority than Rudy's Smokehouse in Springfield, Ohio. According to the folks at Rudy's, "a delicious side or two can take a great thing and make it even better." From there, Rudy's calls macaroni and cheese, a barbecue joint staple, a "perfect pairing for BBQ." Also getting the nod from Rudy's is coleslaw, which the restaurant calls "an honored part of BBQ lore." And, Rudy's calls cornbread, in all its sweet and savory goodness, an "iconic pairing" with barbecue. But one thing not mentioned by Rudy's Smokehouse in its listing of side dishes for a plate of barbecue is a salad. And there may be a perfectly good reason for that.

Salad takes away from the true barbecue experience

There has long been a bit of folk wisdom among barbecue aficionados that says you should never order a salad at a barbecue restaurant. But why? More than a decade ago, The Big Apple explored the issue, including various online references to the old saying. The blog concluded, in part, that people who see barbecue as a "manly" meal often are likely to see salad as "'sissy food." The Big Apple goes on to suggest a true-blue, deep-dyed barbecue restaurant is properly concentrating on smoking its meat, and not on the variety of ingredients, all of which have to be refrigerated, that are required for a salad. Hemant Bhagwani, chef and owner of Indian restaurant Goa New York, recently offered a similar take to Eat This, Not That.

Bhagwani, whose restaurant opened on February 10, said salad is among the things that are "not what the core of the concept is" at a barbecue restaurant. It's best, Bhagwani continued, to "focus on the barbecue" and stay away from other dishes when enjoying slow-smoked meat. Rick Mace, owner and executive chef at Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, had a similar warning. "Beware those additional items on the menu that aren't meat," he said. Mike Rice of Alexandria Restaurant Partners holds a particularly extreme position, saying, "don't order sides." The reason, he explained, is that filling up on sides means less opportunity to truly enjoy the meat, which has been "given loving care for hours."