Day 3 of the barbecue tour was surprising. We started off the morning in New Albany, Indiana. This town is just outside St. Louis and offered us a cheaper place to stay while still being close to the city. On a whim, we decided to stop in one of the locations on the list that offered an eclectic mix of bbq. My initial plan was to skip this place in favor of trying other bbq shops in Kentucky featuring mutton. Nevertheless, we were super satisfied with this small detour. Mom and I ate at Mark’s Feed Store just outside St. Louis. I started off with fried pickles; they were amazing. They were properly battered and each individual chip had its own crunch. The pickles themselves weren’t overly seasoned or acidic. Furthermore the mayonnaise dipping sauce – similar to thousand island dressing – was a perfect match to mellow out the light acidity of the pickles. They were probably some of the best fried pickles I’ve ever eaten.
For my main item I ordered a combo platter so I could taste a few things. Mark’s was far flung from the traditional bbq of Kentucky but I still wanted to sample their take on bbq. The combo came with three ribs, some slices of briskets, pulled pork, Mark’s signature honey glazed wings and a side of burgoo. The wings were astounding: super crispy even though they were slathered in sauce; in fact even after 10 minutes they still had a great crunch. The sauce was a little on the sweet side, honey glaze was an accurate description. The meats weren’t nearly as smoky as I would have liked but the sauces were the best I had so far on the trip. (And not just one of them, all of them.) The burgoo was also fantastic. This thick stew was composed of various trimmings from the meats along with some vegetables and stock. The final result was a warm, rich and meaty stew that had fabulous flavor and depth. It definitely was an inspiring comfort food. Part of the Mark’s Feed Store experience is that all first time visitors get a free dessert and the table gets to take home a bottle of sauce. All around, this experience was awesome; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a kitchen tour.
Mom and I then headed off to Owensboro. Based on overwhelmingly positive feedback online, my expectations for Moonlight Inn in Owensboro were extremely high. We arrived a little after two in the afternoon. I approached the counter and filled the cashier in on what I was up to. After asking him for his recommendation he told me that we should come back in an hour for the buffet. His idea was that I would be able to taste everything on there menu for a much cheaper price. I explained to him that I really was only interesting in tasting signature dishes – mutton in this case – of the areas. To my surprise, he fixed me up with a few bites of their bbq mutton which was amazing. He reiterated his sentiments about sampling the buffet so Mom and I opted to stick around town for a little and come back for the buffet. Interestingly though, their menu and buffet options only included two forms of mutton; the rest of it was standard “bbq” fare. I should have known better, but my curiosity got the best of me. In my defense, after the Mark’s Feed Store experience, I figured that even the other items on the menu would be pretty good.
The buffet included a mix of various sides – things like creamed corn, cheesy broccoli, mac and cheese and pineapple and ham – none of which looked too appealing. They also had a full salad bar, which went untouched during the hour we were there. Additionally, there was a full pie bar offering various cream pies and a few fruit pies. I went just for meat and sampled pulled pork, chicken, brisket, ribs and more mutton. The pork had great flavors and was very tender. Likewise the chicken was smoky and still quite moist. But both the brisket and ribs were tough and dry. Furthermore, for some reason, the mutton on the buffet was not nearly as good as the first round I tasted. Mom ordered more burgoo but both she and I felt it missed the mark. My feelings about Moonlight Inn are pretty mixed. I would say I was generally disappointed, especially since this place was rated as one of the best in the country. I personally believe the only reason for that is because of the buffet. Moonlight does use real wood smokers rather than Southern Prides and you can taste the difference; the smoke is much more intense. I was glad that I tried the buffet, but I’d never do it again. My recommendation for anyone interested is to get there between 11am-2pm when the buffet is only $11.95. This will allow you to sample everything without having to spend money on food that, in my opinion, was marginal at best. We had a long drive ahead of us, so we took off shortly after on our way to Memphis.