Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2017 - 57
Jason and Codi Pass even give
credit to Mike for the way they stack
the ingredients on that sandwich,
which, they say, sells "like crazy."
About a third of the business at
Mike's comes out of North Carolina,
and the town of Damascus, Virginia, a major stop on the Appalachian
Trail, is only 14 miles away.
"It's an old-fashioned method
with a lot of tradition," Jason Pass
says of his inherited barbecue style.
"With wood, you can infuse more
smoke into the meat than you can
with electricity or gas."
As he reflects on the first year
of this life-changing business venture, Jason Pass says, "The Lord's
"That He has," Codi Pass quickly
Mike's Bar-B-Q and Sub Shop
Mountain City, Tennessee
Thirty years before Mike Blevins
smoked his first shoulder on busy
Highway 421, Grace Proffitt opened
The Ridgewood in a lonely hollow in Sullivan County, Tennessee.
There was no thought of barbecue
at the time. Ridgewood was a roadhouse back then.
When Sullivan County went dry
in 1952, Grace and her husband Jim
had to devise another way to feed
their two young sons, Larry and
Terry. On a credit-union-financed
vacation to Daytona Beach, Florida,
the Proffitts happened upon a family barbecuing chickens. They came
back to that mountain hollow and
constructed a pit, in Jim's spare time
on breaks from his job making rayon over in Elizabethton.
Instead of chicken, they opted
for the hog, specifically fresh ham.
They began the tradition of barbecuing the meat in Jim's pit for about
nine hours. Then they rubbed it
with a spice blend, chilled it, sliced
it, and warmed it on the grill with
a secret sauce. The procedures have
Jim used his two sons as sauce
testers, and his creation is known
only by two people today: his son
Larry and his granddaughter Lisa.
Grace once took a load of that sauce
and her smoked ham to Manhattan
and talked about them on "Good
As thrilled as she was to go, that
kind of promotion wasn't her style.
An early menu from The Ridgewood described the sauce as simply
"different." There was no hyperbole, no phrases like "cooked to perfection." The word "different" was
That mountain humility is a family trait. "We're just country folks,
trying to make a living," says Larry.
Grace and Jim made sure Larry
would have lucrative work. They sent
him to pharmacy school at the University of Tennessee Center for the
Health Sciences in Memphis. In the
1960s, driving from Sullivan County
to Memphis took forever. But Grace
and Jim made the trek often.
It was at Leonard's, in Tennessee's
largest city, where Grace got the
idea to start serving barbecue beans.
She came home and combined her
family's sacred sauce with pieces
of barbecued fresh ham and some
onions. Served in crocks, her beans
have been called one of the best side
dishes in the South.
Larry brought that pharmacy degree back home and eventually took
over an old drugstore in Elizabethton. But he never abandoned his
family's love of barbecue.
The day-to-day running of The
Ridgewood is now in the hands of
yet another health care professional,
Larry's daughter Lisa Proffitt Peters,
a registered nurse. He insisted that
she, too, earn a marketable college
degree. After working as a nurse in
two different hospitals, Peters decided to try her hand at barbecue. Her
father directed that she learn every
job in the restaurant, from bussing
tables to washing dishes to running
the cash register.
Now as manager, she says the
When it comes to great barbecue,
everyone has an opinion! Luckily, Blue
Ridge Country's Facebook fans were
happy to share their answers in our
quest for tasty BBQ in the Blue Ridge
Mountains. Let's take a look at a few of
your favorite spots to try.
Bob's Southern Smokehouse
130 Division St., Pikeville, KY
Pig in a Poke
341 University Drive, Prestonsburg, KY
(Plus a 2nd location in Pikeville)
8304 Valley Blvd. (HWY 321 Bypass),
Blowing Rock, NC
Pig & Grits
620 W. Main St., Burnsville, NC
Both of these were overwhelming
crowd favorites when suggesting
places to try!
1842 Woodruff Rd., Greenville, SC
(Plus 2 more locations in Greenville
May/June 2017 57