Bob's Baby Backs Ain't Comin' Back
As much as for his books and movies, Gore Vidal is remembered for his oft-stated belief that one should “never pass up a chance to have sex or be on television.”
He should’ve added “or to go to your favorite barbecue joint because you don’t know when that sucker is liable to shut down.”
That’s what I told myself recently after foregoing my usual bi-weekly trip to Bob’s BBQ in Creedmoor and getting my usual - two huge slabs of ribs.
Because of a pending doctor’s appointment, I called myself being health-conscious and keeping Dr. Ron off my butt. When I decided to heck with that and went to get some ribs a week later, though, I was met not by the usual parking lot full of similarly carnivorous customers, but by a sign on the door:
WE ARE RETIRED. Thank you for your patronage!
Now that the joint has closed down, I – like Vidal with sex and TV – wish I’d gotten those ribs every chance I had.
Owners and twin sisters Paula Ellington and Carla Mangum told the Butner Creedmoor News newspaper that they want to spend more time with their families. That’s understandable, but surely their families would’ve understood what a hole the restaurant’s closing will leave in the bellies of so many customers, right?
If you hear wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout parts of the Triangle, it’s because those teeth can no longer gnaw on the juicy barbecue ribs that Ellington and Magnum served.
I learned of the Granville County institution's closing five days after it shuttered for good, but still I drove over there a few days later
to see if any unaware fans showed up – and, yes, to see if maybe the crew at Bob’s had left some uneaten ribs lying around.
In the 15 minutes I sat in the parking lot that Saturday, six cars pulled up to read the “So long, suckers” sign - not really, but thats what I took it to mean - on the door. Three were from North Carolina, while the others bore license plates from Colorado, Virginia and Illinois.
The Illinois patriarch, Mr. Evans, said stopping at Bob’s was automatic every time the family visited relatives in Atlanta.
“We time the trip so we hit this little town – what’s it called? - right around lunch time,” he said. “We’re going to miss that fried chicken.”
Even when Bob’s was open, the ribs were only sold after 4 p.m. on Saturday. Never could figure that out.
They were often sold out by 6, which is why some of us – okay, perhaps just I – would program Bob’s
telephone number into our phones and begin watching the clock around 2 p.m.
At 4:03 – you wanted to wait a few minutes so they wouldn’t think you were a no-life- havin’, clock- watchin’, rib-cravin’ desperado, even if you were – I’d call and order two full slabs of ribs with two sides, usually macaroni and cheese and sweet potato fries with each.
Lawd, ha’ mercy. Throw in a complimentary bag of hushpuppies with each order and you talkin’ ‘bout somethin’ good t’eat!
And healthy, too.
Let me explain: when you knew a visit to Bob’s barbecue was on the agenda come the weekend, you felt obliged to eat more circumspectly throughout the week, just so you wouldn’t feel too guilty – and to leave room for more Bob’s.
Southern chronicler Rick Bragg wrote an article for GQ magazine several years ago that began “I always
wanted some washboard abs. But I also seem to always want some baby back ribs.”
Me, too, Rick. Me, too. Every time I’m confronted with the option of abs versus ribs, abs lose.
The first time I entered that carnivore’s Valhalla known as Bob’s, I foolishly asked Paula or Carla if they had beef ribs.
Her answer comprised the sweetest two words in the English language: “Pork, honey.” (I have found my epitaph!)
Not only were Bob’s pork ribs the best and meatiest I’ve had in the Triangle, they were unbelievably cheap: a full rack with two sides and hushpuppies was only $14.95. Despite going there at least twice a month for the past several years, I’d always pay quickly and dash out the door – lest they suddenly realize they were giving away all of that Southern scrumptiousness for 14.95.
So long, ladies. Enjoy your retirement. We’re gonna miss you.
And your ribs, too.