Southern Indiana is known for a number of things – but BBQ? Oh yes.
BY GRANT VANCE | PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN WATSON
Yep, this region is a hotspot. With popular places like SHAWN’S SOUTHERN BBQ, HARLEY’S HARDWOODZ BBQ, CHEF WALKER’S roving goodness and CARR’S BBQ AND MARKET, there’s a sizzle worth listening to around Southern Indiana BBQ.
FRANK HARLEY was as inviting as ever (a running theme through our four spots: Shawn Pitts and Frank Harley are friends, even), offering a plate large enough to feed a family. The plate included brisket, pulled pork, as well as ribs and chicken wings that could fall off the bone with a slight breeze. With sides of greens and beans, it was a hefty, hearty and delicious meal, to say the least.
Harley sets his BBQ apart by shying away from the prominent southern style.
“Most everyone does Southern Style,” Harley said.
“I do more Texas, Kansas City-style – more of a thick, rich sauce. If I give someone a sauce, I don’t want it to run off.”
As Harley described, Southern-style (often Carolinas, Tennessee) is “typically a vinegar base.” Though leaning away from southern style sets Harley apart in-and-of itself, his true defining stylistic choice comes with the titular “hardwoodz.”
“It’s all about the wood flavor,” Harley said. “I only use wood, I don’t use charcoal at all.”
Using a wood-base versus charcoal adds a more intricate flavor, Harley claimed, while also lending itself to a variety of different intricate flavors.
“I’m a hickory and oak guy,” Harley said. “Some people are cherry; some people are peach.”
Harley stands strongly by his stylistic choices, and they most certainly pay off for a delicious cuisine. But ultimately, Harley’s priorities are in the consumer’s experience.
“I just hope people enjoy the food,” Harley said. “That’s the main thing: that people enjoy the BBQ.”
And the people are. Especially the people of Southern Indiana, to be exact.
“Southern Indiana is doing really well. I’ll honestly say I think we’re doing better than Louisville,” Harley said. “In a couple years in this area you’re going to have another world champion … hopefully it’s me.”
Harley’s Hardwoodz BBQ is in Jeffersonville, just past Veterans Parkway, offering a variety of delicious, wood-smoked options. Harley’s personal favorites are his brisket and chicken wings.
HARLEY’S HARDWOODZ BBQ
1703 Charlestown New Albany Road
LOCATED off State Street in New Albany, Shawn Pitt’s blues-inspired BBQ joint offers a delicious ensemble of award winning BBQ delights.
Pitt’s was friendly as ever, finishing up a massive catering order and offering a plate of his finest ribs with a side of beans and potato salad (made daily by his mom).
Pitts’ particular style comes from Tennessee.
“It’s something I always say, the Tennessee in me. I learned from my older relatives, they’re from Chapel Hill, Tennessee,” Pitts said. “The rest is improvisation. That’s gotten me here.”
Despite his history of tournament placements and local acclaim, Pitts was as humble as ever, frequently inquiring if the spicy-sauced BBQ held up to customers’ standards. It did, of course, largely contributing to the growing local BBQ stronghold in Southern Indiana.
“I’m pretty new (three years). I know there are some other guys popping up that are pretty new. I guess there’s a demand for it,” said Pitts.
Pitts takes pride in his slow-cooked dry rub, smoking his meat the old-fashioned way. His sauce is made in-house, included with both “tame” and “spicier” options.
“I cook it the slow way,” Pitts said. “If you go farther up north you’re not going to find a smoker anywhere.”
Stop in, carry out or call in a catering order of Shawn’s sauced or un-sauced BBQ. But if you ask him, he would lead you in the direction your taste buds are seeking. “I eat the chicken more than anything.”
SHAWN’S SOUTHERN BBQ
822 State St.
LOCATED just off Spring Street in New Albany, Chef Walker’s BBQ is a humble stand near the Marathon just off of Providence Way. Offering his finest pulled pork drenched in his signature, in-house apple butter sauce, the chef himself, Ola Walker, explained the local and intimate qualities of his BBQ.
“We are southern-type BBQ. My girlfriend is from Mississippi, and I’m from Alabama,” Walker said. “We have our own identity. That’s what I think is so special about our barbecue.”
Cooked on-site daily, Walker promises consistently savory quality. With a sweet taste and tender pork, it’s no surprise you’ll be back after a taste.
“We always keep the same standard at all times. We never change,” Walker said. “If you come one day to the next, the food is the same.”
So good, Walker professes, he could never settle on one menu item to declare a favorite.
“What’s good? Everything,” Walker said. “People like it because it’s fresh; outstanding ribs, pulled pork, chicken, collared greens.”
CHEF WALKER’S BBQ
Silver & Spring St. at the Marathon
CONSIDERABLY the most unique out of the Southern Indiana BBQ tour, Carr’s BBQ and Market is just that, a market. This is the feel and look of the interior of their Floyds Knobs location. While they do serve meals and offer catering, Carr’s is the only stop on the list to also sell wholesale products, from meat to pickles.
Owner Adam Carr takes pride in the Southern Indiana atmosphere, raising his own cattle and purchasing his ingredients from local Farmer’s markets.
“All the meat here is raised in Southern Indiana. Everything is as local as we can get it,” Carr said.
“Raised here locally, 100 percent all natural. No hormones, no antibiotics. We’re a member of Indiana Grown, our version of Kentucky Proud.”
The BBQ sauce itself is made by Carr’s father, a Memphis style dry rub. But Carr prefers to let the meat stand alone and let the tasty sauce come on the side.
“It’s a mix between a Carolina and an Arkansas. It’s not real vinegary, but also not real ketchup-y or sugar-y,” Carr said. “But really it’s the way you smoke it that sets you apart.”
Carr offered a delicious plate of pulled pork with a variety of classic BBQ sides, a personal favorite being the mac and cheese, complete with a plethora of different cheeses and seasoned to perfection.
Another unique menu item Carr has to offer is smoked salmon, a huge hit come Lent, of course.
Catch Carr’s anytime Wednesday through Saturday.
Carr’s BBQ and Market
3700 Paoli Pike Ste. 10