Ramey’s Bar B Que, Parsons, Tennessee

Well, heck.  If you’re in Lexington, Tennessee, at around noon on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday from March 1 to early December or January, and all you’ve had to eat all morning is a truly wonderful barbecue sandwich at B.E. Scott’s (okay, and some chips and slaw), you might as well — should — drive on a ways to Parsons, Tennessee, and have a sandwich at Ramey’s Bar B Que.  I don’t suppose that many people do, but then not many people love their neighbors as themselves or hit the lottery big time.  I’m a little short on both of those points, but I certainly did go on to Parsons for a barbecue sandwich.  There unfolded my second stop on Day 3 of the Great Memphis Region Barbecue Sandwich Tour.

Parsons is a small town of 2,000 or so very friendly people.  The town was founded as a railroad town in the 1880s.  It’s just a few miles west of the Tennessee River, and grew as a link between river and rail traffic, and as a shipping point for the locally raised tomatoes.  The railroad is long gone and the main tourist attractions are the recreation opportunities on the river and Ramey’s Bar B Que.

I  learned of Ramey’s from an article in Texas Monthly, of all places, that mentioned Ramey’s.  Texas Monthly is the magazine that picks the 50 best barbecue places in Texas very year, and, with the humility people often associate with the great State of Texas, declares that they also are, by definition, the best in the world.  A mention from Texas Monthly about decidedly non-Texas barbecue is rare, indeed, and worthy of further study.

So to Ramey’s I went.  I spotted it right away, a bold red building.

rameys ext
The focal point of Ramey’s is the window at which you give your order to a very nice person.

rameys window

I ordered a regular (not large) pork sandwich, hot, with slaw.  That set me back $5, including tax (plus a dollar tip).  Off to the left, a red door opens into a pleasant room in which you can seat yourself at one of four four-tops.

ramey door

Through the door I went, sat, and opened my Ramey’s sandwich —

rameys sand

Here’s the inside —

rameys sand open

No picture could ever do justice to that sandwich, least of all that picture.  As you can see, the pork has a slightly rougher chop than B.E. Scott’s, and that adds some texture, although the meat is meltingly moist and tender.  And the pork has excellent flavor, both of pork and smoke.  Ramey’s gets an extra kick of smoke by loosely covering the pig with a piece of very heavy cardboard during the low and slow cooking.  The loose covering adds to the smokiness without either steaming or baking the meat.  (“When you start closing them up with metal, you might as well put them in the oven.”)  That’s world class meat, and the vinegar and pepper sauce is hot, but just right.  It doesn’t compete with the pork, but balances its richness.

The slaw has a fairly fine chop, and includes some mayonnaise and carrot.  It’s very good slaw, but I’d just as soon have it on the side next time.   The mayonnaise tends to mute the bite that I think complements that delicious pork, but that’s just me talkin’.

One reason Ramey’s pork is so good is that they get their whole hogs from Fatback Farms, a product of The Fatback Project, which helps small farmers raise heritage pigs with care and without hormones, antibiotics, and the like.  One of the founders was Nick Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’; he also has helped Rodney Scott go big time.

But you have to visit Ramey’s between March 1 and sometime in December or January, depending  on how cold it gets, in order to try their barbecue.  Ramey’s doesn’t cook whole hogs in the winter.  It takes too many coals to counteract the winter cold, and the meat can get dried out.  Ramey’s doesn’t serve dried meat, and it’s too expensive to throw away.  In the winter, Ramey’s stays open but menu shifts to chicken, ribeye sandwiches, smoked ham, grilled shrimp, and burgers.

I’m sure the winter options are good, but do go when you can get some of that great barbecue.   Ramey’s is a Top Place, definitely worth a couple of hundred mile drive.  If you go, say “hi” for me.  They may remember the idiot who backed out of a parking space after lunch while staring lovingly at Ramey’s menu board and got hung up in a ditch.  Within 60 seconds, about half of the town had come over and pushed my rental car out.  Nice, friendly people.  I think they were just waiting around to do something nice.  My role was giving them an opportunity.

Do go to Ramey’s.  Go there before or after B.E. Scott’s in Lexington.  See which you like better.  Great meat and great cooking make Ramey’s a Top Place and a must-visit, so go.

***

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17 thoughts on “Ramey’s Bar B Que, Parsons, Tennessee

  1. My hometown, Ramey’s was my neighbor, help build his house in the later part 1980s. It’s great to see when GREAT BBQ is noticed. Ramey’s is not just good for Parsons, Decatur County, but one of the Best in TENNESSEE

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  2. I may have been one of the ladies to help push you out! Along with our County Judge, my cousin and a co-worker. Ramey’s not only has the best BBQ but they support, donate and help in the community every chance they get!

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  3. LOVE Ramey’s. I think it’s better than Scott’s. They use real hickory and u can definitely taste the difference! My daughter and I have to have a Ramey’s fix anytime we r down that way

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  4. Being from Texas and currently living in the heart of Bar B Q country, La Grange, TX we will concede the pork sandwich contest to Rameys. However. In Texas when you talk serious bar b q you always think beef or more precisely brisket. We do allow some gloating over the best hot links or as we say Hots. Ok yankee boy. We’re not talking those one foot loops or ring bologna. We talk the 4 and 5” links one or two is a meal for most people. So just order two hots and crackers and sit down for lunch. So back to brisket bar b q. You don’t get sandwiches or even plates . You’re lucky if you get a fork. We serve on butcher paper bread and sauce are served on the side along with pickles and onions. You will find most places offer potato salad slaw or beans but don’t count on it. My fingers are tired. I’m out of here

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    1. Thanks for checking in! (Even though you called someone born in North Carolina and raised in Alabama a Yankee.) I’ve spent some time in Texas, and the best brisket I had anywhere was at Snow’s in Lexington, just up the road from you. The best sausage was at was at the Kreuz Market over in Lockhart. I’m the first to say I really do need to get to Texas. They’ve got top notch brisket and I love the sausages. Where should I go if I get near La Grange? It sounds like there’ some good stuff there. I love suggestions. Meanwhile, search “Texas” on the blog, and I think you’ll find some good stuff. Best, John

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      1. First you can slot Bar B Q restaurants into three different categories. First and my favorite is antique, second is antique reproduction and third is new commercial. Here in La Grange we have a great example of antique. It’s Prauses Bar B Q on the square. What makes it antique is it’s history. Old meat markets would display beef and pork for a few days or until it lost its fresh appeal. They would remove it from the case in the afternoon and decide it’s fate. Bar B Q or sausage. For beef I’ve seen almost everything put on the pit including bone in roast.

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      2. Prauses is first a great meat market. Second they sell a truck load of Bar B Q every day. They sell what they have and don’t buy extra. Other things that make them antique and special to me is they cook on site. They serve on butcher paper and offer a few sides like slaw and potato salad. Now we need to address the term “Yankee Boy”. That term applies to what you think Bar B Q is. When people refer to Bar B Q as being pork, you have to understand the process. Yankees that specialize in pork buy a whole side of pork and throw it on the pit. They cook it, peal it pull the pork apart add the sauce and serve. With beef you cook spice and sauce during the cooking process and there are infinite recipes. Now for the most unusual thing I’ve ever cooked over a pit its bologna. I ate at a place in downtown Ft Worth that served Bar B Q’d bologna. They would take one of those full unsliced bologna rolls about 4” in diameter. Cut 4 one inch slices down the sides slice in one inch slabs and marinate it overnight in Coca Cola. It was excellent.

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      3. I had some barbecued bologna at a tailgate in Tuscaloosa once. It was cut right off the grill, and tasted pretty good. And I agree that cooking on site is essential. And using wood only. There’s a web site, truecue.org, that has been amassing a list of places that cook only with wood – no gas – and there’s a page for Georgia.
        Keep the comments coming!

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      4. Sounds great! I think I may have eaten there once. We took my mother on a trip back to Manchester and Warm Springs, where she lived as a child, and then to La Grange where she starters college. It’s a lovely town. Thanks so much for sharing!

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