After visiting a Signal Mountain friend, I was coming down Taft Highway and saw a sign that read “Poppy’s Smokehouse - Southern Barbecue”. Well, you know I just had to stop in and see for myself just how Southern.
It was raining and, as soon as I got inside, the bottom dropped out of the sky. I picked a good time to let the storm pass before heading back. Poppy’s was such a warm, inviting place. I looked around for the fireplace because it just had that kind of appeal. There was no fireplace but Poppy had it nice and cozy.
Most places freeze you to death when it rains.
When I visit somewhere I have never been before, I always like to see how it works. I sat down with a menu and observed how other customers were getting their lunch.
I assumed the man running the place was “Poppy”. He was at the counter taking care of a customer and I noticed him licking his teeth – he must have already been sampling his own food in the back, which made me think it must be pretty good.
After he had time to swallow and his customer left, I went up to the counter and asked for the pork platter for $8.99 and paid for it right then. There was a space to add a tip on the receipt. I knew it was ‘help yourself’ so I wasn’t sure who the tip went to. Maybe the cook? I wrote in a couple of bucks but I thought, T.I.P.S. meant “to insure proper service” and since I was serving myself, I found that a bit odd. If the tip did go to the cook, wouldn’t I tip them after I ate the food?
Poppy was nice to give direction where the soft drinks were – to the right and where the forks and sauces were – to the left. I noticed they didn’t use trays so I moseyed on over to get my drink. Then I moseyed past the counter over to the other side to get my fork and a cup of sauce. Most of the customers looked like construction workers and people coming in for take-out orders. I think I was the only old lady who felt it was an effort. I figured I better take what I needed to my table before my food was ready.
They called my number and I moseyed over to the counter to get my food. On rainy days, ol’ Arthur acts up …and I mosey.
I really don’t mind putting effort in helping myself if the food is worth it and something told me it was going to be good. I liked the atmosphere and the food smelled wonderful.
I tasted the meat before pouring my sauce on and it had a beautiful smoked flavor. I still like sauce - and I like it hot. I had chosen the hottest sauce they offered from their gallon squirt bottles but I had only brought a small soufflé cup to my table. I went back for one more cup.
After I ‘got sauced’ I realized that ‘their’ hot and ‘my’ hot were on very different degrees. I looked over to see if they offered Tabasco or something else that had more kick. I saw a few bottles of extra hot sauce, but I was tired of moseying.
The okra was hand-battered and it was delicious! I tried a bite of the slaw, but I didn’t like it. Everyone has their own way of enjoying slaw; some like it runny and fine while others like it coarse and vinegary. Some put onions in it and ruin the whole thing! I think this had minced onion, I really wasn’t sure, but the way they made their slaw, just didn’t suit me. I didn’t taste vinegar – which I like and it just tasted ‘fat’. Maybe the dressing they used, I don’t know. I am sure people who like their slaw more mayonnaise-y would love it.
A boy who worked there came around asking everyone how their meal was. I enjoyed the barbecue and the okra so I shared that I thought it was wonderful. I didn’t tell him I was picky about the slaw. I also didn’t eat the Texas toast they serve with the meal, but I am sure it was good. I try to stay away from bread when I eat fried okra or tomatoes – unless I just can’t help myself. Since it wasn’t a buttery piece of cornbread I wasn’t as tempted.
The barbecue certainly was Southern. I could tell they don’t trim a lot of the fat from the meat which I am sure gives it the wonderful flavor it has. It didn’t have that white nasty fat, but was just marbled with a bit of fatty meat. I ate it anyway and it was really good. The meat was tender, it was smoked well and it wasn’t dry.
I liked this place and can see why it could be there for a very long time. Poppy makes it very warm and homey …and Southern!
Poppy's Pork Platter with Hand-Breaded fried Okra and Slaw