Our supper the first night Buck and I were in Ponte Vedra came from Barb and Wally’s Down South Barbecue. A funny pair, assuming the ugly ducklings were Barb and Wally. It was a hole in the wall storefront, and while the smells were authentic low and slow smoke, with sweet and vinegary sauce top notes, plus the granular aroma of velvety collard greens, it was clearly more a take-out spot than a dine-in venue.
We ordered a whole smoked chicken, a pint of BBQ beans and a pint of collard greens. Barb’s brunette hair, thick and frizzy, was piled on her head in a haphazard do. She wore thick glasses and was pleasant, though somewhat vacant, and the semi-dazed “why am I here?” expression looked like her default face. Wally was a male match for Barb with his dark messy hair, beard, and a growly look. “I’m the pitmaster. I don’t need to make no stinkin’ conversation.”
The phone rings. It’s on the counter where the register sits by the front door. Barb calls out. “It’s for you.”
I catch his eye movement, a furtive, ducking look. “Who is it?”
Barb shrugs. Classic. Wally looks like he might take a flyer out the back door. His eyes shift for a millisecond to me. He decides. “Tell them I’ll call back,” he says to Barb, his tone a tad bombastic, like a scared small man. Wally goes back to deep-frying garlic corn on the cob and dipping up cheesy potatoes and baby back rib racks for a take-out order phoned in before we arrived. He mutters to the food. “The question is, why are they calling me here?”
Two guys come in. Barb: “You here for a pickup?”
“Yeah. Mike.” They look like golfers. The one who spoke, Mike, slides me a look. Lascivious bastard. Men can’t resist women who eat barbecue. If he knew I drink scotch, too, often at the same time I’m eating grilled meat, he would have swooned right there.
By the way, if you’re ever in Ponte Vedra, stop by the joint. The cue’s damn good.