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Moonlite Bar-B-Q

Moonlitebbq
Praise the lord and pass the biscuits! Yet another extended piece of DPaul’s birthday arose (like the South, again) last night, as we thawed, heated and consumed one whole pound of Moonlite Bar-B-Q pulled pork from Owensboro, KY.

Moonlite is literally internationally famous. I’ve heard anecdotally that after the Bolshoi toured the U.S., when asked what they liked best about America, they said Moonlite Bar-B-Q. It’s not hard to see why.

Owensboro is in the northwestern quarter of Kentucky, and is particularly famous for making barbeue with mutton as well as pork, which is far more prevalent in the South. During our last trip back, we had hoped to go to the International Bar-B-Q Festival there, but weather kept us away. So, it was very thoughtful of DPaul’s parents to send Owensboro to us. (Tangentially, Owensboro is also the birthplace of Johnny Depp, another tasty morsel.)

Now, I come from the Northeast, where the word "barbecue" means meat on a grill. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I came to know — and love — the wonders of smoky, saucy, slow-roasted and shredded meat. But now, it is tantamount in my mind as one of the great regional foods of America, up there with the Maine lobster roll, the New Orleans po’boy, chile verde and sopapillas in New Mexico and so many others.

Moonlite’s ‘que is without a doubt delish. The meat is more chopped and shredded rather than pulled, which creates a smoother texture overall interrupted with a few more sizable chunks. You can definitely taste the woodsy flavor from the smoking. The sauce is balanced and flavorful, with no one element overriding another: equal parts sweet, vinegary, spicy and rich. I like all the varieties of Southern barbecue, with a special fondness for the ultra-vinegary Carolina style, but this stuff rocks my world.

Cole slaw is the mandatory side-slash-condiment for barbecue. I like a nice scoop right on the sandwich itself for a little crunch and creaminess to offset the chewy tanginess of the meat. My slaw is simple yet serviceable:

1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp celery seed
pinch of herbes de Provence (optional, but very nice)
pinch of salt and crack of pepper

Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and spices in a large bowl until well blended. Add in cabbage and toss until thoroughly coated. Best if made an hour or two ahead.

Optionally: Salt cabbage and place in a kitchen towel in a colander over a large bowl; add a smaller bowl on top and add weight, pressing out the moisture of the cabbage for an hour or two. Rinse the cabbage and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Then continue as above. This creates a drier, richer and crunchier slaw, but it is more labor-intensive.

DPaul’s parents also sent along a backup jar of BBQ sauce, as well as a nice slab of country ham, another Southern delicacy that is unattainable out on this coast. But most importantly, we have one more pound of delectable ‘cue lurking in our freezer, waiting for when the craving strikes.

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
2840 West Parrish Ave
Owensboro, Kentucky 

  • I’ve heard they serve a black sauce in Kentucky. Is this what y’alll received?

  • Interesting … I’ve never heard of black sauce. But for a comparatively small state, Kentucky has several culinary regions within it, and it is very much compartmentalized. For example, you’ll get Hot Browns only in the Louisville and Lexington areas, and burgoo is more of a northwestern thing. I’ll have to inquire about black sauce though.