The taste buds of the masses seem to go through phases… periods during which a certain type of food becomes popular. As a kid, I remember when Chinese restaurants became all the rage, then Italian; Sushi led to Thai and then Indian – and now Barbecue.  And, unfortunately, with massive acceptance comes attempts at franchising. Corporate types seeking to put more black ink on the bottom line by stamping out cookie-cutter operations offering mass production of the latest food fad.

Barbecue, to this point, has proven the one niche with which the mass market folks have had trouble. Famous Daves and Smokey Bones are but two examples.  Now, however, there may be an aberration about to make good on a big scale.  A ramshackle restaurant getting its start in the Deep South appears poised for explosive growth.  And all because a dumpster diver was looking for something to do with his “stuff.”

Born on the bayou (Ocean Springs, Mississippi), The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint, is just that and less.   The restaurants (I’ve been to two) appear to be patched together by neighborhood kids building a ground level tree house.  The décor is decidedly sparse and certainly patron provided: think old tools, car parts, signed dollar bills, sports gear, tie dyed shirts, business cards etc., nailed, stapled all about. Tables, in some instances, are doors on saw horses and you’ll have a tough time finding any two chairs that match.  Table cloths?  Wet Wipes?  Valet parking? You’ve got to be kidding.

Why? Because real barbecue addicts know that the best barbecue is usually is found in some building in severe disrepair in a bad section of town with bars on the windows and just enough grease on the table for you to be able to write your initials.  Think of three great barbecue joints: Finchers in Macon, Georgia, McNeeleys in Memphis, Tennessee, and McMillan’s in Whistler, Alabama, as prime examples.  The two Shed locations I visited were both well off the main drag and in areas where appearance and/or restrictive zoning was not an issue.

Food at The Shed is fairly priced ( plates with two sides range from $8.99 for chicken sausage, or pork, to $9.99 for beef brisket and 11 or 12.99 for spare or baby back ribs plus a couple sides) and better than  average. The sauce is a thick molasses based concoction. Four sides are offered: baked beans (promoted as ‘famous), Cole slaw, macaroni salad and potato salad. Collards and French fries were conspicuous by their absence. Everything comes with pickles and onions. All in all, better than average.

The colorfully written menu notes at the bottom, “Oh yes, there are more Sheds. Each one totally unique, no cookie cutter franchise stuff for The Shed.”   The others, at this point, are in Gulfport, Mississippi, Scott and Mobile, Alabama and Destin, Florida.

Ironically, it may have been the former CEO of  Porsche, Peter Schutz, who put it best when he said, “If you listen, your customers will explain your business to you.”  Shed founder Brad Orrison (a self confessed dumpster diver while at Ole Miss) obviously has listened to his customer base and knows the DNA of the true barbecue fan, and is betting on the theory that “if (he) you build(s) it, they will come,” and one may be coming near you soon.  Enjoy.