Tina’s Barbecue: The Pride of Ghent

1 04 2011

Ever watch the local news on Fridays when they show results of sanitation inspections for local restaurants? We see things like roaches in the kitchen, hot food too cold, cold food too hot, the cook with a chaw in his mouth. Just what would it take to make you say you’ll never return to that restaurant? Would really good food outweigh really bad cleanliness?

One of my business partners and I were teaching a week-long OSHA class in Carrollton, Kentucky several years ago. Carrollton is a great little town but not exactly a bastion of world-class cuisine; so, by Tuesday, we had already experienced the finest fare Carrollton had to offer.

At the end of the day on Wednesday, we asked the class for a restaurant suggestion. Without hesitation, nearly everyone said Tina’s Barbecue. With such a rousing, and nearly unanimous recommendation, how could we go anywhere else-especially considering we had exhausted all the acceptable locations in the area.

So off we went, in search of Tina’s. We passed through a very small community called Ghent, unknowingly by-passing the restaurant a couple of times before we found it. It turned out to be a small brick building just off the highway driving into Ghent. (I understand Tina has now moved her business into town.)

As we walked in the door, I noticed the only customers were seated at a table at the front of the restaurant. There were two men and two women. There was also a baby, wearing only a diaper, crawling around near their table; so, naturally, I assumed this child, who appeared to be about a year old, belonged to one of the couples at this table. So my partner, David, and I took a seat at a table near the rear of the restaurant and within view of the kitchen. The baby saw us and made a b-line straight for our table, crawling as fast as her chubby little legs would get her there.

As we sat there looking over the menu, the baby, unable to walk or stand unassisted yet, grabbed David’s pants leg and pulled herself to a standing position. We both looked around wondering the same thing-why doesn’t the owner of this child come and get her?

Pretty soon, Tina, the restaurant owner, came out and greeted us. She picked up the child and holding the baby on one hip with her left arm, she took our order with her right hand before retreating back toward the kitchen, baby in arms. So, that’s why one of the ladies at the other table didn’t come get the child; she didn’t belong to either of them.

Soon, with Tina in the kitchen preparing our dinner, the baby returned to our table. As we sat there, trying to entertain the urchin, there was a sound from the kitchen. I said, “David, was that a dog?”

David leaned back to get a better view into the kitchen and confirmed not only that it was a dog that barked, but there were two dogs on the floor in the kitchen. Well, that’s a first for me, as far as I know.

So we briefly discussed leaving, but it had taken us so long to find the place we were both starving, and besides, we had few options if we left Tina’s. So, we agreed to stay and give it a try in hopes that if there were any fleas or dog hairs in our food maybe we just wouldn’t see it.

It wasn’t long before Tina was returning with our dinner. After placing our meal on the table, she leaned over and picked up the child saying, “Come on honey; let’s go get you some clean britches on.” She then disappeared into the kitchen where we assumed, she changed the diaper.

Now I’m pretty adamant when it comes to restaurant cleanliness, but I get even more serious about good food. I refuse to use that worn out phrase “to die for.” I hate clichés. So while I wouldn’t be willing to die for it, I would consider taking a kick in the butt for Tina’s food. Dogs or no dogs, crappy diaper or no crappy diaper, David and I didn’t hesitate to return the following night and on subsequent trips to Carrollton. And, while I would probably have to drop my wife off at McDonald’s along the way, I’d go back to Tina’s today. You can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a restaurant by the number of dogs in the kitchen!

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