The Girl, her parents, and yours truly decided to take our dinner out in Ridgeville at the restaurant that was once the symbol of why I wanted to leave the South. Duke's BBQ has always seemed to have been there. Situated just across the railroad tracks in a town slowly fading out of existence, Duke's still draws the weekend crowd from miles in every direction. This is the classic cafeteria style BBQ joint that at one time was in every town in the state. In the fall, expect to be sitting shoulder to shoulder with friends you've never met debating which local high school has the best shot at the state title. I'm almost certain every movie set in a small southern town has a scene filmed at Duke's.
Well, that's two paragraphs, and we haven't even walked through the door. I warned you I had mixed feelings about eating here. You step through the door and the inside is almost as shabby and depressing as Ridgeville itself. Everything seems to be a shade of yellow. The walls are some kind of yellow. The table is some kind of yellow. The tea urns that are as old as my soon to be in-laws are some kind of yellow. I wouldn't fault you for turning around and walking out at this point. Only when you look close do you see past the depressing and see the resilience of the South. There is a smile on everyone's face. A wave and a head nod quickly turn into handshakes and hugs. Simple tasks are conquered with a whistle and a song. Time may have passed Duke's by, but that doesn't mean you can't stop and smell the hash.
That hash is the first thing to hit your nose. Not the pulled pork, not the fried chicken. The liquid BBQ just hangs in the air. As you get closer to the self-serve bar, you see more of the classics. Pulled pork, BBQ beans, rice for your hash, fried corn bites, hush puppies, and a range of veggies from rutabega to green beans. Remember, your $7.50 is for all you can eat; you don't have to load up on your first trip.
Relaxing after the meal I look around me. Duke's hasn't changed at all in the more than a decade since The Girl took me there on one of our first dates. So much about who I am and what I believe has changed, evolved, grown. I thought coming back I would look down on the simplistic food in the run down restaurant. Sitting there, staring at my last bite of pudding, I'm glad I came back. Authentic food from an America that is slowly dying. Go while you still can.
Overall: 15 out of 25, This is a little taste of classic America that you won't be seeing for much longer.