Thursday, March 22, 2012

Follow the Crowd to Callahan, Florida

Callahan Barbecue
450077 State Road 200
Callahan, FL

Generally, Suit757 is not a “follow the crowd” kind of guy.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll totally disregard such a 21st Century concept as “crowd sourcing.”

“Crowd sourcing” is one of those internet-age catch phrases that refers to the ability of large sample sizes to produce accurate opinions. That is the beauty of on-line restaurant review sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon.

From a purely statistical standpoint, it is completely legitimate. The fact is, if you sample a broad enough group of random people, you will, by definition, get an accurate read on that group’s opinion.

That’s the science behind “crowd sourcing”.

The art is in determining whether or not the opinion of that particular group is worth a damn.

That’s where Suit757 can help.

If you follow the on-line reviews, the line of customers out the door and the snake of tail lights queued up at the take out window of Callahan Barbecue, there is no doubt this is by far the most popular place to eat in this small Southern town near the Florida/Georgia state line.

But what does a motley crowd of good ol’ boys and gals dressed head-to-toe in camouflage, Florida Gators or Georgia Bulldog gear really know about world class barbecue and fried chicken?

Well, get in line with ‘em and find out.

That’s just what I did.

Even though the clock had barely budged past 11am, Callahan Barbecue was packed. As my line inched closer to the perky high school girl at the cash register, I faced a dilemma.

Barbecue or chicken?

The sign out front says “Callahan Barbecue.” But right underneath it says “The Chicken House.”

Well? Which is it?

Barbecue or chicken?

In true Suits in Strange Places spirit, I chose both. Of course.

From the smoke pouring out of the chimney attached to the back of the shopping center, to the pink smoke ring evident in my chopped pork, there was no doubt this is real smoked barbecue.

But a bit dull and dry.

Given four choices of table side sauces, I chose to go with the local favorite, a mustard-based sauce, which livened up my sandwich a bit.

But in the end, the sandwich was just some dry chunks of pork on a bun.

Despite the name over the front door, clearly, the barbecue is not the reason for the 11am crowd.

Of course if I had given the Tebow jersey-wearing crowd a bit more credence, I’d have skipped the barbecue all together and just stuck to the fried chicken. Because that’s what everyone else was eating.

My respect for the opinion of this small town crowd grew immediately after my first bite into my fried chicken leg.

Moist, tender and greasy as a Gator offensive lineman after a mid-August scrimmage, this was good fried chicken. The crust was crunchy and modestly seasoned, but tragically too easily crumbled off of the poultry skin.

My fried bird was really good. No doubt better than any other served in this rural county nestled against the Georgia state line.

But is the fried chicken up there with the very best in America? No.

Forgive me – not to take the name of Tim Tebow in vain – but I’m pretty sure most of this crowd hasn’t been to every classic fried chicken shack in America, like I have. (Although you could hit a good sampling of them on SEC road trips to Nashville, Starkville and Lexington).

That’s ultimately the limitation of “crowd sourcing”. The crowd can steer you away from places you don’t want to go and can direct you to some real good fried chicken, but the quality of the crowd’s opinion will always be limited by the quality of the crowd.

Rating: Would Wear a Free Shirt.

Callahan Barbecue on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. So the last comment on the 'quality of the crowd' kind of sounds a bit douchy.