Originally posted on You Only Live Once.
We did a lot of driving on our honeymoon. In the middle two weeks of our trip we drove a few miles shy of 3000 in our various hire cars. There’s a lot of land in between all the major Southern cities. A lot of corn fields and Subway restrooms. You have the choice of eating at truck-stop Popeye’s (not the worst decision tbh), or seeking out the smaller BBQ spots and eating there. Luckily for me, “my wife” ( – Borat, 2006), sought out the most exciting middle-of-nowhere BBQ joints she could find.
One of these joints was Spooney’s Bar B Que in Greenwood, Mississippi. Bianca found it mentioned on a BBQ website. It doesn’t have Yelp page or anything, all we found was a video interview with Spooney describing his love of cooking, and talking about his past running a restaurant, which he gave up in favour of a BBQ grill setup out the front of his house. It sounded so awesome and simple. We had to go.
So on our last night in New Orleans, the day before we were set to drive to Memphis, Bianca called the number listed for Spooney’s Bar B Que online. After a few rings, it answered, and Bianca was speaking to none other than Spooney himself.
“Hi, are you open for BBQ tomorrow?”
“Are you out the front of my house?”
“No, but I’m hoping to come there tomorrow. Are you open?”
“Hold on, hold on, I’m driving, give me a moment.”
“Now what do you wanna eat?”
“Whatever you’re cooking!”
“Where are you from?”
“Australia! But I’m driving from New Orleans.”
“You’re from Australia? Well you can have whatever you want!”
The conversation continued and I watched Bianca smile more and more as Spooney asked her questions about Australia. He told her about a girl he used to know about called Bianca. He assured her that there would be ribs waiting for us when we got to his place and we went to bed, excited for the long drive to Greenwood.
300 miles later we pulled into Spooney’s small home town (Greenwood has a declining population of 15,000 since 2011) and drove to Pelican Street. Spooney’s house has a shed out the front with a hand painted Spooney’s Bar Be Que sign hanging from the roof and a large old BBQ bellowing smoke next to it. Across the road is another house covered in hand written signs advertising beer prices. Three men sit on plastic chairs on Spooney’s front lawn and welcome us to their street. We introduce ourselves and say that we’re here to see Spooney.
Spooney emerges from his house with cooking utensils and a tea towel. He immediately apologises to us, there was a storm that morning and he wasn’t able to light his BBQ as early as he wanted to. Are we in a hurry? No, that three hour drive to Memphis can wait. We pull up a seat and start talking to Spooney’s other guests on his front lawn, while Spooney tends to the ribs on the BBQ.
We sit on plastic chairs, drinking lemonade and having conversations with people from the neighbourhood on Spooney’s lawn, everyone going out of their way to make us feel welcome. Spooney finds an old outdoor fan in his shed and two of his friends take it apart and rewire it, aiming the loud but cool air straight at Bianca and I. Everybody who drives past pulls their car over and comes to talk to us. Mostly older men, war veterans who are keen to tell us about the history of Pelican St, Greenwood and their love for Spooney and his cooking. We learn that the house across the street with the hand written beer signs is the local nightclub and that the lady who lives there also cooks the side dishes for Spooney’s barbecues at the local markets. Everyone is fascinated as to how a young couple from Australia found their way to Spooney’s Bar Be Que.
During our conversations the smell of smoky meat increases and after two hours Spooney lifts the lid of his BBQ and reveals just two racks of ribs! This whole time he’d only been cooking for Bianca and I! Spooney takes the ribs into his kitchen and returns with two styrofoam boxes for us. Inside are the ribs, covered in Spooney’s own BBQ sauce; and a big dollop of potato salad, made fresh by the lady across the road.
The ribs aren’t as tender as Spooney would like them to be due to the short cooking time but they still taste incredible, with a huge smoky flavour and an awesome tang from Spooney’s BBQ sauce. The mustardy potato salad is delicious and the cold glasses of lemonade just keep coming. At the end of the meal, Spooney finally sits down with us, keen to know what we thought of his cooking, and keener to tell us stories of how he started out cooking and why he prefers serving BBQ out the front of his house for his friends. We promise to write about his spot and send him the photos we took. He writes us a bill and we tip 100%. It’s the first time we’ve ever had someone open up and cook a meal just for us!
Visiting Spooney’s Bar Be Que was a very unique and special experience. I’ve no doubt that there are other small scale BBQ joints all across the South, but if you ever find yourself driving through Mississippi, be sure to give Spooney a call.
Next up: The best pulled pork sandwich of my life in Memphis.
Spooney’s Bar B Que
404 Pelican St, Greenwood, Mississippi. 662-709-1465.
Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.