It would be interesting to know what the folks in Brunswick County, Va. — birthplace of Brunswick stew — would think about the way one of Louis-ville’s new barbecue joints, SMOKEY BONES BBQ (2525 Hurstbourne Gem Lane), is serving up their sacred burgoo. According to the Virginia-based Brunswick Stewmaster’s Association, the first barrel of the stuff (a mouth-watering concoction of stale bread, onions and squirrel meat) was mixed by African-American camp cook Jimmy Matthews 175 years ago.
Since then, as you might expect (given the shaky culinary reputation of the modern-day urban squirrel), the recipe has undergone altering, with other meats serving as substitutes. Various vegetables were added, and the stale bread was nixed. Today the BSA’s sanctioned recipe uses chicken, fatback, butter beans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes and onions.
Smokey Bones’ rendition, which uses smoked dark-meat chicken, pulled pork, ground beef, onions and corn in a tomato base, breaks the rules, but no matter. The hearty mixture is perfectly seasoned, and the combined flavor of the warm meats is especially satisfying on a cold winter night. At only $3.89 a bowl, the stew makes a cheap, and filling, alternative to an entree. Customers won’t even care whether it passes the most vital test of “official” Brunswick stew — that the cook’s stir-paddle must be able to stand up in the middle of the pot.