|Ridgewood Barbecue is a popular |
destination in eastern Tennessee.
Smoked ham, thinly sliced, is not the typical barbecue. To find it, you have to head to eastern Tennessee to a regional restaurant known as Ridgewood Barbecue.
When I was in the Bristol area for a field trip conducted by Southern Foodways Alliance, the hickoried sandwiches of Ridgewood were served as supper in the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway. As part of the evening program, Larry Proffitt, the surviving son of parents who started the business, discussed his family’s barbecue business and Ridgewood’s traditions.
|Larry Proffitt serves |
barbecue for supper.
The origin of Ridgewood Barbecue dates to 1948 when Proffitt’s father Jim and partners opened Ridgewood Inn. When the business changed its operations to barbecue in 1952, it was renamed Ridgewood Barbecue and operated by the Proffitt family.
With a pit made out of cinder blocks, father Jim began smoking hams – not shoulders or whole hogs – because as Larry says, “Even a country boy knows that shoulders go into sausage.” After being smoked for hours, the meat is chilled overnight. Then it is sliced very thin to be ready for customer orders. As customers arrive, it is heated on a griddle with a tomato-based sauce and then piled high on sandwiches or platters.
Smoked ham slices are heated on a griddle for platters and sandwiches.
Although I missed an excursion to the restaurant with him, I created my own Ridgewood experience by going there for lunch after the field trip was over. Ridgewood certainly has a style of its own. The thinly sliced ham is definitely different than the pulled or chopped pork that a barbecue aficionado typically encounters, and the homemade sweet and tangy sauce adds an extra dimension to separate Ridgewood’s barbecue from others.
Larry Proffitt worked in the family business with his brother Terry as they grew up. Although Larry graduated from pharmacy school and owns a drug store in the area, he and his daughter Lisa (who is a nurse) now continue as owners and operators of the family business. For their dedication in carrying on this regional tradition, we are very much in their debt.
|I was able to visit the area where the hams are smoked.|