The smell of barbecue wafts through the air along Route 12. About a mile south of the Route 73 intersection, a small trailer sits on the side of a hill. Parked cars line the narrow stone driveway that winds its way around. Dozens of people are crammed around the five adjacent picnic tables as they devour beef brisket and pulled pork that took hours to slow cook.
A sign along Pricetown Road points the passing cars to Muddy’s BBQ, one of Berks County’s newest dining hot spots. March 1st began the outdoor barbecue joint’s sophomore season of business, with fans flocking in after a township-induced four-month fast from the tender meats that Muddy’s began serving up at this spot in the Spring of 2011.
In the south, places like Muddy's are everywhere. I fell in love with barbecue five years ago on a trip to the Gulf Coast. There, outside the otherwise sleepy little town of Oceans Springs, Mississippi, I found The Shed, a literal shed in middle of nowhere that had people lined up for over an hour just order. Since then, I've eaten in barbecue joints from Texas to North Carolina to New York City, unsuccessfully trying to find something that could rival The Shed. Never did I dream I would be able to find it in the Oley Valley.
While you wait in line, the smell can drive you crazy. If you go during peak hours, you could be waiting to order for fifteen minutes to a half hour before waiting just as long for your food. But a little patience goes a long way.
On my most recent trip, I decided on a platter of pulled pork with a side of french fries and barbecue baked beans. Each platter comes with two slices of white bread, which come in very handy for cleaning up extra sauce.
Their pulled pork, like all their meat, is slow-cooked and I can just imagine it falling apart as they prepare it. It's tender and juicy, but a little extra sauce never hurts. The fries are fresh-cut and dashed with Old Bay. The uneven coating gives a little different flavor in each bite. The baked beans are some of the best around. Whatever is left from yesterday's meats get thrown in with the beans. It almost has the consistency of chili, but the much sweeter flavor of barbecue.
If you want to give Muddy's a try, start with lunch if you can. It's not as full, and you can usually find an open seat on the picnic tables. If you're going for dinner, especially on the weekend, you're either going to have to take your food home with you, or make new friends because the tables are full through the whole dinner rush.
My meal cost about $12 including the drink. Sandwiches are a more economical option, and come with slaw and a side for a few dollars less. For families, Muddy's offers several combos that can be shared, including The Feast, which features almost everything on the menu, can feed five or more, and runs about $60.