There was an article in last week's West Meade News, of all places, about Drifters - the new barbecue restaurant that has recently opened in East Nashville. While this site will of course reserve final judgement until we've had a chance to dine there, some of owner Matt Charette's comments in the article raised some red flags.
While most places smoke their meat, Drifters uses a roaster, which Charette says is the most expensive piece of restaurant equipment he's ever purchased. The method is said to preserve flavor.
"A lot of times smoking barbecue tends to dry it out somewhat, and that's why you have the sauces that go with it," he said. "We roast it so the meat stays nice and tender and juicy. Generally, when I eat it, I don't even need sauces."
Listen, I have absolutely no problem with roasting meat. You can make a pretty strong bird that way. But...is it barbecue? The "definition" of barbecue is something that will ultimately never be agreed upon. I realize that for the majority of Americans, barbecue is anything that has barbecue sauce slathered on it. And I begrudgingly accept that. But it seems to me that restauranteurs, especially ones in the South, where barbecue is king, should know better.
But who knows - maybe I'm the one who needs to get wise? Maybe my own personal definition of barbecue, which involves slow-cooking and using wood - is too narrow. After all, one of the most famous barbecue restaurants in the world serves ribs that don't fit that definition. You will notice, however, that Rendezvous never refers to their product as "barbecue", but rather "charcoal-broiled ribs" - the "barbecue" nomenclature has been applied by the general public. But I digress.
So what do you think? Is roasted meat barbecue? What are the unofficial requirements for calling something "barbecue"?