Not long ago, a meat-averse person who found themselves at a barbecue restaurant would have been relegated to a pretty short menu of side dishes: mac and cheese, potato salad, green beans that might not be flavored with bacon. But, as palates have become more plant-forward, so too have ’cue joints—where veggies are now getting almost as much respect as their low-and-slow menu mates. Take the pulled mushroom sandwich at the new Westside location of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. When they opened the outpost, co-owners Jonathan and Justin Fox wanted something on the menu for the vegetable-loving crowd—but that didn’t mean settling on a faux-meat burger. “I wanted something we could feature and tinker with ourselves versus finding, buying, getting something in that’s already prepared for you,” Jonathan Fox said.
From a distance, the sandwich they came up with (above) looks like its pulled-pork counterpart. But it’s filled with oyster mushrooms. They’re charred, sauteed in vegan barbecue sauce—no Worcestershire—and loaded onto a bun with vinegar-dressed coleslaw. (And you can still get a side of mac and cheese for a dollar extra.)
A few other meat-free faves at local barbecue spots
Plate + Sides
A barbecue rub gives tofu a smoky-spicy flavor at Sweet Auburn BBQ, which serves the protein, generously sauced, like barbecue is supposed to be served: with two sides, Texas toast, and pickles. Poncey Highland, sweet-auburnbbq.com
At Heirloom Market BBQ, Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor’s roadside hole in the wall, crispy tofu cubes are coated in a kimchi sauce that packs a bit of heat, then piled into corn tortillas and topped with kimchi coleslaw, jalapeños, and cilantro. Cumberland, heirloommarketbbq.com
The Big Salad
With ingredients that change frequently, the “salad of the day” at Woods Chapel BBQ lets seasonal veggies shine: Recently, it featured a mix of English, sugar-snap, and snow peas, plus asparagus, feta, and a lemon-mint vinaigrette. (Don’t sleep, either, on the restaurant’s sweet and zesty beet and jalapeño slaw.) Summerhill, woodschapelbbq.com
At Pit Boss BBQ and Spirits, a large portobello mushroom is coated in garlic butter and stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and Swiss cheese, then served on a toasted bun. Hapeville, pitboss-bbq.com
Back to The Joy of Vegetables
This article appears in our June 2022 issue.