There are few things that beat sitting down for a meal at your favorite barbecue joint. But you should know that everything on that menu is a fantastic choice — for one reason or another. Here are some of the things you should never order at a barbecue restaurant or, if you do (like I sometimes do), you should at least know what you’re getting yourself into.
Non-barbecue dishes featuring barbecue meats
Some barbecue restaurants feature dishes on their menus that are a sort of barbecue fusion. They’re things like quesadillas packed full of barbecued meats. Totally fine, right? Well, according to a First We Feast story by Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor at Texas Monthly, though the presence of these dishes means the meat you’re ordering is probably fresh, ordering one of these hybrid dishes means the meat being used to prepare those dishes is likely leftover from the day before. You want the freshest barbecue, right?
Something that’s not the regional specialty
Different kinds of barbecue is best in different places. In Kansas City, burnt ends are a must-order. In parts of Kentucky, mutton is the thing to try. According to Vaughn’s article on First We Feast, the right order is partially dependent on the regional specialty of where the restaurant is located. He recommends pork (or a specific specialty) east of the Mississippi River and beef or pork west of it.
Macaroni and cheese
Loading up on macaroni and cheese alongside your excellently ordered barbecue is unwise. It’s often full of fat and calories (that’s what makes up all that cheesy goodness). According to Southern Living, pairing your lean, delicious barbecue with a hefty portion of thickly sauced mac and cheese is also a good way to make you feel weighed down after your meal.
Spareribs (otherwise known as regular pork ribs) might not be your most health-conscious choice the next time you’re out at a barbecue joint. According to Cooking Light, a rack of spareribs contains nearly your entire daily allotment of sodium. Yikes, definitely not an all the time order.
Hush puppies are deep-fried pockets of deliciousnes. I love a hush puppy to pair with my barbecue, but it’s not surprising that they’re not the wisest order. According to Southern Living, like macaroni and cheese, hush puppies can make you feel a little sluggish after you eat. Not ideal.
Mayo-laden potato salad
Potato salad made with a mayo-based sauce is something you should probably avoid ordering at barbecue restaurants. As noted in Shape, the "salad" is simple carbohydrates (potatoes) paired with a dressing chock full of fat, making it an unhealthy option. Does that mean you should never, ever order it? No, but be mindful of the rest of your ordering if you’re worried about the nutritional content of your meal and still insistent that potato salad is a part of it.
Though many barbecue restaurants don’t offer a single appetizer on their menu, newer, trendier places are opening with all kinds of fatty, salt-bomb snacks in which you can indulge before digging in to your plate of ‘cue. According to Southern Living, you should avoid ordering these pre-meal offerings. Stick to what you came to the restaurant for in the first place.
You might think ordering the chicken at a barbecue restaurant is a safe bet, nutrition-wise, but according to Cooking Light, all is not as it appears. Ordering the half-chicken means ordering approximately 14 grams of saturated fat, which is quite a large proportion of your daily allotment of saturated fat. If you’re worried about fat intake, steer clear of the half-chicken next time you’re out for barbecue.
Turkey is a health-conscious choice at barbecue restaurants, according to Cooking Light. But it’s often, frankly, not as great as other offerings — and the calorie savings aren’t really that great, considering it’s all slathered in the same sauce. If you like it, order it, but if you’re hankering for barbecue and don’t eat it on a regular basis, go ahead and splurge on something else.
Red sauces are characteristic of certain styles of barbecue (for instance, Kansas City style). That being said, they’re often salty and sugary, balanced out with a (often proprietary) blend of spices, all of which makes them really delicious. If you’re worried about the nutritional makeup of your barbecue order, however, you should likely opt for a vinegar-based sauce rather than a ketchup or tomato-based sauce that’s been cooked low and slow. According to Cooking Light, those sauces are typically high in sugar and sodium, making them a less-than-ideal choice for particularly health-conscious barbecue eaters.