Forbes blogger Larry Olmsted attempted to turn the barbecue universe on its ear this morning by suggesting that barbecue can be "upscale and good." Exhibit A in his argument: Kansas City's own Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue. Olmsted writes:
I have been to the mountain of "fine dining" barbecue and am back to tellWhile the kind words for Jack Stack are appreciated, Olmsted's post is based on a flawed thesis that upscale barbecue is a mythical concept.
you it can not only be done, it is being done and done very, very well.
In Kansas City.
Olmsted argues that the messy nature of barbecue and the preferences of diners have confined smoked meats to shacks and kept pit masters out of the world of fine dining (he also argues that Jack Stack is better than Arthur Bryant's, but let's stay on task here). I'd assert a different point of view, which is that barbecue is the great culinary equalizer. If you can work a spit, grill or smoker, you don't need to worry about the other elements of a restaurant.
The decor is ancillary. I don't care about a paper plate if the sauce is righteous. And I don't care if the chairs are mismatched if the ribs are tender. I don't even care whether the licensing is up-to-date if I'm getting a proper bite of bark. The only thing I care about when it comes to barbecue is the barbecue.
And I'd hazard a guess that I'm not alone. Mr. Olmsted is correct that barbecue, for the most part, is not upscale. However, that's only because your barbecue must stand on its own four legs.