Nancy and her Mah Jongg buddies, Nancy Breul, Jean Saillant, and Ellen Buchanan, go to a National Park every year. This year, they dropped me at the Salt Lake City airport to return to the sweatbox that has been Washington, and drove up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to visit Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Being selfless, while in Jackson they went to Bubba’s Bar-B-Que, which had been recommended by noted barbecue experts, Babs and Bob McCurley of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Nancy took copious notes.
It’s a nice place, with ample parking and a beautiful view of the ski runs. The grounds are landscaped and there are split log benches outside on which to sit while you wait. And there’s a big cooler of water, here flavored with cucumbers (a favorite) if you want to drink something innocent while you wait.
Inside, there are antique decorations — an old gasoline pump, wagon wheels, and murals.
You get actual silverware, and the paper napkins are thick enough actually to offer some protection.
They were off to a good start, but no sooner were they seated than a dispute arose. Bubba’s has a salad bar.
Jean was firm that there should never be a salad bar in a barbecue place as a matter of principle, but Nancy Breul could hardly wait to hit the three kinds of greens, green beans with onions, mushrooms, the obligatory canned beets, pea shoots, and other assorted goodies. (Bubba’s salad bar also had bread pudding, which I suppose passes as a vegetable in some parts of Alabama. At least banana pudding is a vegetable on many Alabama menus, so bread pudding must be one in Wyoming. Dressings included a vinaigrette and blue cheese. Bubba’s refreshes the salad bar often, which is very good and all too rare.) And the great salad bar policy debate was resolved without resort to physical violence.
But they did not by any means go to Bubba’s just for the salad bar. They ordered meat and sides. Zeke, their Argentinian waiter, responded to questions about the baked beans and macaroni and cheese by bringing them samples. A nice touch.
The meat was the main attraction, and they were pleased. The brisket, pork, and turkey all were moist and modestly smoky. Everyone was pleased with the quality, although the meat could have had a stronger smoke flavor. It turns out that people in Wyoming don’t like a strong smoke flavor. Their preference doesn’t affect me a bit, and so I won’t be judgmental and make comments about culinary backwaters and how people should raise their children. The portions were generous, and they had a lot of leftovers to take back to their VRBO.
They all liked the cole slaw and potato salad. The cole slaw had a good balance of vinegar and creaminess. The potato salad had bits of celery, onion, and green pepper, and, crucially, the potatoes were not overcooked. The baked beans could have used more onions, and, like the macaroni and cheese, could have had some more kick.
They have five barbecue sauces, including their Original, Southwest Rib, and Carolina, all of which were sweet. Even the Carolina sauce was thick, but it did have a good bit of vinegar, so it was Nancy’s favorite. They also have jalapeño and habanero sauces, which were quite hot — and also thick. All plates came with Texas Toast, but this was not a Texas Toast crowd. It was a blueberry pie crowd. The blueberry pie came with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, and was good. No complaints there.
Bubba’s also serves beer and wine, but they don’t list the choices on the menu, so it was back to Zeke.
Service was good (Zeke seems to have been a hit) and the people were very nice. Brian, the manager, showed them around. Bubba’s uses an Oyler Smoker — a big box smoke — which they fire with real wood coals.
Bubba’s uses applewood exclusively. And they brine the turkeys before they smoke them.
They start the meat before midnight and let it cook unattended from midnight to 5:00 a.m., when someone comes in to open up the place. Here’s an action shot:
Bubba’s was a hit. There are, of course, approximately a zillion barbecue places named “Bubba’s” around the country. This one is part of the Blue Collar Restaurant Group in Jackson Hole. There’s another Bubba’s in Cody which is not affiliated. So don’t go strolling into just any Bubba’s and expect to find similar food quality, or Zeke the waiter.