Smile Politely

Blues, Brews, and BBQ 2015

Last weekend’s Blues, Brews, and BBQ got off to yet another rainy start on Friday evening. I attended on Friday night, and although the rain kept some away for a short period, the event grounds were quickly filled with bodies of people looking for something to do.

Food and drink was paid for in secondary currency, of course. Tickets were $1 each.

There were four Champaign-Urbana eateries present: ROKs Tacos, Chester’s BBQ, Dragon Fire Pizza, and Smoky’s House BBQ. Other local-ish places included Pauly’s BBQ (Arthur), Gracie’s Grille (Washington), and Bud’s BBQ (Danville).

Bud’s BBQ had the only seating at the festival — and they brought it themselves

The rest of the food vendors were these guys:

And because of the obnoxious signage, it felt like they might be taking over the entire festival.

I concentrated my eating efforts on the local places. Mostly.

I didn’t have any Chester’s this time, but Chester’s always holds it down, and offers delicious BBQ.

ROKs Tacos offered their same menu, with their same prices. The tacos ($4/tickets), as I’ve come to expect, were delicious.

beef bulgogi taco

Dragon Fire Pizza had a BBQ-themed menu for the event. I quite appreciated this, because in the past I’ve felt as if some not-usually-bbq-places forget that the festival has barbeque in the title. I opted for the brisket pizza ($10/tickets), which came topped with smoked brisket from Old Time Meat and Deli, bell peppers, barbeque sauce, jalapeños, and a four-cheese blend. Bacon and ghost pepper cheese were options (for an extra $1, but I declined). The pizza was great. The combination of flavors was on point, and it was hot and ready in a couple of minutes.

I must have been drunk off of pizza deliciousness, because my next food option was the “mud” from Galesburg-based Kit’s Original Mud. The “mud” was described to me as “meat cheese.” This is the point at which I should have said, “Oh, thank you, but no thank you.” Instead, I gave a dude 3 tickets and watched as he ladled chunky-ish “meat cheese” out of a crockpot and into a plastic dish. It looked like something I’ve tried to clean out of the carpet after my dog has had an accident. And yet I still put it into my mouth.

It was basically low quality ground beef, velveeta, and a packet of discount taco seasoning swirled together. It wasn’t good, by any measure, but it didn’t taste like dog shit (or what I imagine dog shit tastes like). Regardless, it was a poor choice.

I figured it couldn’t get any worse after that point, so I stopped next at Gracie’s Grille. This Washington-based restaurant was also at the Bourbon, Bacon, and Beer festival a few weeks back, and it was there that I was impressed by their “peg legs”: chicken drumsticks wrapped in bacon, smoked, and then grilled. Those were available, but on the advice of the owner sitting in front of the truck, I ordered the “pig wings,” which was pork shank rubbed in brown sugar, wrapped in bacon, smoked, and grilled. At $8/tickets for two pieces, they weren’t cheap. But damn, they were good.

They were tender, fall apart delicious. They were sweet and smoky, and nice and charred from the grill. The pig wing was the best thing I had all night, and I will certainly seek out pig wings and/or peg legs from Gracie’s Grille should they be at any one of these food events in the future.

After the low-high from the mud-pig wing experience, I was feeling emotionally vulnerable. It was funnel cake time.

Since BBBBQ has basically turned into a county fair, I figured it was okay to eat some $8/ticket funnel cake. (I picked the birthday cake flavor, which was an extra $2/tickets. Regular funnel cakes were $6/tickets.) The small child working the booth definitely judged my choice, but I didn’t care.

I ate my funnel cake with impunity.

And then I decided to wash down my shame and indigestion with a $3/ticket lemonade, which was basically lemon-scented liquid sugar.

yes, I consumed that much sugar in one beverage

Early last week I had a dream that while at BBBBQ 2015, I got into an argument with someone and s/he shook up a can of Coors Light and sprayed it into my eye. Attending the festival this year sort of felt like that. Uncomfortable. Mildly infuriating. A little shocking. Potentially hazardous to my health. It would be great if instead of cutting down the Brews options (this year’s options were more limited than last’s) and inviting a boat load of random food vendors, the festival organizers put some effort into developing the Brews and the BBQ sections. Why not provide some interesting, accessible education about Brews and BBQ? Why not show/give/sell me something I can’t regularly see/have/buy? Also, can we please have some seating for eating?

Friday night’s turnout was high, and Saturday’s nice weather was incredibly advantageous for festival organizers and vendors. It looks like most people had a good time, and that’s all that really matters.

All photos by Jessica Hammie.

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