On a trip out West with family we stopped in Selma, Alabama for barbecue. I was the designated food scout, looking online for good places to eat. There were hits and there were misses, and this one, Lannie's Bar-B-Q Spot, was a palpable hit. In fact, it was the best damn barbecue I've had in my life.
I'm no connoisseur. I know enough to be sensitive to the great barbecue wars that rage throughout the South and make it all the way to Kansas City and St. Louis. And I've seen barbecue go trendy in Brooklyn and upscale in Coral Gables, Florida. I've had my share of mediocre barbecue -- we had some in this trip, following online raves. And I've watched a number of Pit Masters shows to learn from the judges what they consider tops, though I disagree with them on some guidelines, but then taste is a matter of, well, taste.
Still, my brother-in-law, who obsesses about his own smoked brisket and pork butt, was impressed. I was simply blown away. Lannie's is an unassuming place in a modest residential neighborhood, though the house across the street, its porch full of a family watching the comings and goings, had as fastidiously a groomed and manicured lawn as I've seen in Palm Beach. Inside Lannie's Spot, the owner and staff, whom I took to be family, were exceedingly courteous and warm.
We all had the smoked pork butt for which Lannie's is known. Outrageously good. A perfect balance of smoke and salt and spice. Tender. Sweet without being cloying. A fine sauce. Truly, I've never had better.
Sides were great too. The slaw was fine-cut, as should be, for raw cabbage and carrot are not friendly in strips, and dressing was homemade. I'm not fond of baked beans but Lannie's won me over with flavor notes unlike those of any beans I've tasted. When I asked, he was unassuming, as if everybody made them that way. He told me the ingredients, like onion and bell pepper, and I insisted there was more to it, to which he gave me a wily smile and said, now, you don't expect me to give away all my secrets, do you? My sister, who likes to make baked beans later told me the bell pepper may have been the ingredient that made the difference. I'll never know for sure.
Nor will I know how Lannie's makes the best barbecue I ever had. I'll just have to make my way to Selma again.