From July 2002
Every barbecue joint has at least one good story, and BBQ Man is no exception. It has to do with Indiana beef. People serious about barbecue know that Indiana beef is simmered in barbecue sauce rather than grilled or smoked. BBQ Man's version is roasted, chopped, steeped in the tomato-based house sauce, and piled on that Maryland delicacy, the potato roll. The recipe was passed down to Hank Maris, a.k.a. the Barbecue Man, by his Indiana grandmother. Back in the 1940s, Grandma Way ran a popular tavern in Terre Haute, where she served barbecue beef, turtle soup, slaw, and booze. Maris's mother made him a pot of the sweet-spicy shredded beef every year for his birthday. So when he decided to open BBQ Man, it seemed fitting that Indiana beef should be on the menu.
Maris, who runs the place with wife Lisa and daughter Sara, isn't attempting turtle soup, and he found selling beer more trouble than it was worth, so for now only fountain drinks are available (we'd love to see a pitcher of that Southern staple iced tea find its way onto the menu). But he's got the slaw and hush puppies. These crunchy, corny balls, purchased from a Mississippi catfish company and expertly fried in-house, eat more salty than sweet and are some of the most authentic we've had in the area.
Maris also takes his barbecue roster beyond beef. Smoky chopped pork, the star of the lineup, has a hot, vinegary twang, courtesy of 16 hours in the smoker and a shake of Pig Juice, the house North Carolina-style sauce. For a hint of sweetness, dribble on the more familiar Northern-style tomato-based sauce. Baby back ribs are coated with the house's Butt Rub, then seared, steamed, doused with sauce, and finished on the grill. Chopped chicken, moistened with barbecue sauce, is the choice for the health-conscious, better than the bone-in barbecue chicken but still not as savory as the meat.
Kids will love the brown-sugar-sweet twice-baked beans. Potato salad isn't made in-house, but with skin-on red bliss potatoes, good mayo, and fresh herbs, it looks and tastes like it might have been. Fries are pretty standard, as is the slaw, despite its regulation authentic fine chop and tinge of barbecue sauce, Lexington, North Carolina-style.
This order-at-the-counter-storefront with barn-gray wainscoting, red walls, and kitschy pig knickknacks–think pewter pig chimes and flying-pig piggy banks–is a favorite with local couples, families, and singles. Some folks get takeout, but regulars stay put on tall stools at the window counters and the two barrel-base tables. They know that hush puppies just don't travel well.