Over the New Year's holiday, Rob and I went on a road trip down to New Orleans. It was supposed to be a BBQ extravaganza (Southern, IL, Arkansas, and Mississippi). As it turned out, we ended up eating a lot of so-so, not worth talking about, BBQ. This lack of enthusiasm is what spurred our recent trip to Texas (Austin and environs), which definitely refueled our fire. (I know that I still have 1/2 of a report to post).
In any case, there were several places that we did not get a chance to go to on our way down that could be viable options for this road trip. (These are all within about an hour of each other).
Mt. Vernon, IL : King Barbacoa BBQ
Cairo, IL: Shemwell's BBQ and Mack's BBQ
Carbondale, IL: Larry's Pit BBQ
Murphysboro, IL: 17th St Bar and Grill (we did go, but I would like to go again)
Marion, IL: Pulley's BBQ (and fried catfish)
Paducah, KY: Starne's BBQ
Evansville, IN: lots of places
Henderson, KY: Gene's Restaurant & Bar B Q
Ralph's Hickory Pit
Owensboro, KY: Sunday Church BBQ's held all summer at various Catholic churches. These apparently are a big deal. I believe that's how the Shady Rest started out.
And upon further research, I see that the Owensboro's International BBQ festival is the weekend of May 13. http://www.bbqfest.com/
I found this to be interesting because the famed Memphis in May celebration is also this weekend. I was thinking that the 1st weekend in May would be the best weekend (May 6-8), but if folks want to check out the fest--we bump it up a weekend.
Some people may find the BBQ Festival a plus, and others might shy away from being in the heart of the storm. Normally, I tend to be of the latter category, but I could certainly be convinced otherwise. I've never been to a giant BBQ fest before, but the kitschy events are intriguing; such events include the "Mutton Glutton contest," the "Keg Toss," and the "Miss Teen BBQ Pageant." My only concern would be that getting into eat at the BBQ restaurants will be a hassle.
Oh, and one more update for people who might want to fly down. American Eagle offers flights from Chicago to Evansville, IN which take only about 50 minutes! This flight would drop you in the middle of all the BBQ action.