What is Darryl's, you ask? WHAT IS DARRYL'S? You don't know? Seriously?
If you're 40 or younger, you can be excused because you missed the Darryl's era based solely on your age. But if you're older than 40 and didn't experience Darryl's or chow down on their over-the-top, delicious ribs, wellllll, all I can say is "bless your heart" because you missed something truly special and more than a little magical. The restaurant was torn down 15 years ago and it was all a wonderful (and tasty) memory until I re-discovered those tangy ribs at The Angus Barn, Darryl's surviving, and very successful, sister restaurant. I ordered a rack and seeing those delectable, fall-off-the-bone, tender pork ribs took me back to my teenage years. After just one bite, memories flooded back causing an old movie to play in the cinema of my mind
I see a navy blue '67 Mustang, convertible top down, heading west, directly into the setting sun. It's traveling on a quiet, two lane blacktop winding through sleepy southern towns. Between each, forests full of hardwood trees, mostly tall, lush pines which cover the sun as it slowly descends toward the horizon. I'm driving and beside me is a girl, who's trying to smooth down her hair, without success, as it whips around her head. We're laughing and enjoying the cooler air, the conversation and WKIX-AM. This car lacks any creature comforts like FM radio, power steering or even seat belts, and yet it captures youthful innocence as something ethereal and wonderful.
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway, I'm excited to be sneaking out of Wide Awake Wilson to drive to The Big City for dinner at my favorite restaurant. In those halcyon days of the early 1970's my hair was dark, my attitude was light, rock 'n roll was king, beach music was queen, disco, the joker, was yet to be born and the music was never too loud as song after song played on the radio.
My biggest worry as I'm driving to Raleigh is....nothing....at least nothing serious that I recall today. Surely there was something there but more than likely it was minor - maybe a a pimple or two? Or how to finagle another pair of J. Riggins' bell bottom pants that could be charged to my parent's credit card? Thanks to Clearasil and Riggins, no one could spot a pimple and I looked hot in those pants. Or hip. Both? Perhaps neither. Goofy is more like it as I was never hot or hip, but did that slow me down? Heck no! The car looks sleek and beautiful and lurches forward as I shift the engine into 4th gear for the final few miles from Lizard Lick to Raleigh.
Darryl's was the destination for a teenager like me and while there were a couple of other locations, the Glenwood Avenue restaurant, between "Our House Diner" and Majestic Muffler, held the most gravitational pull - perhaps because it was just past Crabtree Valley Mall (and J. Riggins). The restaurant's effusive, gray board-and-batten exterior only hinted at the over-the-top, outrageous interior with massive amounts of salvaged, architectural pieces from demolished local homes. Too much was never enough for the owners and old brick walls, wide plank floors, Victorian mantelpieces, gilded chandeliers, huge porch railings, stained glass windows and other recycled architectural tidbits were crowded into every inch of space on every level of the restaurant. I loved it. We all loved it.
It was a feast for the eyes but the feast I craved was a rack of their uber-tender, sweet & savory pork ribs - the best I'd ever eaten. In the 1980's, Darryl's was sold to a national chain which marked the beginning of the end for one of my favorite eateries. If only my favorite food discovery had been chopped kale, sprinkled with a dash of olive oil and vinegar, then today I might still be a skinny guy writing about my favorite salad but that's a different story for a different man.
For me, it was those yummy ribs and as good as they were (and still are), I want to make them at home and not have to draw from my equity line to pay for a rack of 'em (they're pricey at The Angus Barn). After reviewing many recipes, I added and subtracted ingredients until I ended up with a sauce that was worthy of the ribs that brought such wonderful memories back into my mind. Is it the same BBQ sauce from the old Daryl's days? Nope. Honestly, to me, it's better - a thicker, deeper and richer sauce but still tangy and delicious. And that's kind of like they ways I've changed over all those years - now, thicker, deeper and perhaps better; with a richer and more meaningful life than I could have imagined back then as I drove to Raleigh in my old convertible.
So while it's fun to remember, maybe it's better to ditch the trip down memory lane (although what would I give to have that old Mustang back in my driveway), and use this recipe to make new memories at home with one helluva good BBQ sauce for your ribs (or chicken). Date night with your honey will never be the same and no nighttime driving down a now-busy, four lane highway that connect two of my favorite places, Wilson and Raleigh. And speaking of my honey, Susan prefers our South Carolina BBQ sauce that's made with mustard and honey (something about turning 16, a Ford Pinto, a boy named Throckmorton and a trip to Hells Half Acre in South Carolina) so I'll also include that recipe for your grilling pleasure. We both have our teenage memories but you can try both recipes and let us know which you like better.
Better Than Darryl's Ribs
South Carolina Ribs with a Honey & Mustard BBQ Sauce
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