Barbecue heaven is for real and it's in Kentucky

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The Mother of All Pork Chops, Knockum Hill Bar-B-Q
  • Mike Sula
  • The Mother of All Pork Chops, Knockum Hill BBQ

All that bad barbecue I wrote about last week put me in a coma. But I did see a bright shining light while I was out, and heard a pleasant southern drawl beckoning me toward it. Suddenly I found myself in heaven or, rather, beautiful southwestern Kentucky, where the angels took pity and told me of a magical pit on a hill out in the country. It's the best barbecue around, they sang. Nobody does it like that anymore. My spirit guide gave me directions to Knockum Hill BBQ, in Herndon, Kentucky. "I wouldn’t send anybody for barbecue that only had a lick and a promise of smoke,” she told me.

ribs, Knockum Hill Bar-B-Q

Knockum Hill BBQ, which indeed sits on top of verdant Knockum Hill,* seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, but it's about 20 minutes away from Fort Campbell army base, which makes up the bulk of its business and allows owner Oscar Hill (no relation to Knockum) to keep extremely limited hours: 9 AM to 7 PM on Fridays, and 9 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays. "Because that's all I want to be open," he told this nosy Yankee. "Been that way for 20 years."
Hickory, Knockum Hill, Bar-B-Q

He was kind enough to show me his pit behind the restaurant, which was impossibly long and cooling off for the day. Out back there is a large covered picnic area alongside stacks and stacks of the hickory wood that feed it and smoke the pig meat the way it should be done.
Pig goes in here, Knockum Hill Bar-B-Q

$9 will get you a heavy plate of big meaty ribs, permeated with smoke, or finely pulled shoulder with enough fat to keep it slick, plus two sides (choose from burgoo, beans, potato salad, and coleslaw). But Hill's claim to fame is a massive pork chop, smoked low and slow until the connective tissues dissolve and it sits quivering before you like a living thing. It's the proverbial pork chop that's as big as your head, and it's large enough that after I astrally projected back to Chicago I had enough leftovers to convince several unbelievers that, yes, there is such a thing as barbecue heaven.
Knockum Hill, Bar-B-Q, Herndon KY

Knockum Hill BBQ, 11185 Kentucky 107, Herndon, Kentucky, 270-271-2957

*According to esteemed Kentucky historian William T. Turner, the name Knockum Hill originated in the 1880s, when a saloon/country store stood there, and one fellow clouted another in the head, knocking him dead.

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