The Hungover Gourmet


In Search of Perfect Barbecue, or is That BBQ?

There are some who make annual pilgrimages to religious hot spots. I know of people that visit the land of their heritage with mesmerizing regularity. But as a first-generation American – and proud of it – I find myself caught between my Scottish and Polish backgrounds. Whaddya know, two stereotypes for the price of one! And so, being cheap and stupid I always decide that the best vacation is one in my own damn country.

For the last several years I've been making pilgrimages to my own version of mecca – Midwest Barbecue Joints. I've found that it's surprisingly easy to hop on a plane, land in Wichita, Kansas and eat your way through the northern part of Oklahoma in slightly more than a weekend. Frankly, nothing washes away the depression brought on by work and failed relationships like the slow-cooked, mesquite-smoked aroma of some awesome barbecue.

Now, let me start by stating that I'm not going to get into the whole barbecue vs. bar-b-cue vs. bbq controversy. I've seen it written in more ways than you can imagine, and I don't want to end up starting some kind of war of words that lands me in a Chinese labor camp! 'Nuff said.

First stop on the agenda is Dougan BBQ in Ponca City, OK. Now, we didn't just stumble upon this eatery. Oh, if only our fine-tuned BBQ radar were that – in the words of Abdullah the Butcher - "powahful"! No, we'd done some advance scouting on the area thanks to my brother who ended up in the 'Land of BBQ and 3.2 Beer' a few years back, and was more than happy to squire us around to the best joints in the area.

Now, if you're thinking that the world of BBQ is a happy-go-lucky one filled with moonbeams and rainbows or maybe cumin and peppercorns, you're sadly mistaken and have obviously never attended a cook-off. Nope, BBQ ain't without its controversies, and Dougan BBQ is just one-half of the tale in sleepy little Ponca City. Seems that chef Paul Dougan used to be the head chef at another, more established BBQ joint in town called Head Country. (Just hold on, we'll get to it!)

Despite speaking with many residents under the promise of anonymity, we couldn't obtain an on- or off-the-record explanation of what kind of controversy led to Dougan's departure from the Head Country kitchen and into a place of his own. Oh, we spun many a yarn over some icy cold brews, but all were discounted as far too ludicrous.

Enough chit chat, what about the food?

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