Best Bets: Barbecue bologna

The barbecue bologna at Payne's features a thick slice of meat on white  bread with slaw.Michael DonahueThe Commercial Appeal

The barbecue bologna at Payne's features a thick slice of meat on white bread with slaw.Michael DonahueThe Commercial Appeal

On a trip to Payne's Bar-B-Q a few months ago, I ordered my usual: a barbecue sandwich. My friend, blacksmith John "Big John" Golightly, ordered his usual: a barbecue pork sandwich and a barbecue bologna sandwich. So I ordered a bologna sandwich, too. "Delectable" is the best word to describe it. It's about an inch-thick slice of bologna covered with barbecue sauce and Payne's sweet-tasting slaw on white bread.

The barbecue bologna at Payne's features a thick slice of meat on white  bread with slaw.Michael DonahueThe Commercial Appeal

The barbecue bologna at Payne's features a thick slice of meat on white bread with slaw.Michael DonahueThe Commercial Appeal

They didn't begin selling barbecue bologna until after they had been open about three years, said Payne's owner Flora Payne, as she sat at a table in the cavernous converted Exxon service station. Her late husband, Horton Payne, and his mother, the late Emily Payne, came up with the bologna sandwich concoction. The sauce and slaw was her mother-in-law's family recipe. "Her people did barbecue way back in the day."

The Paynes served the barbecue bologna on white bread because that's what they used to serve their pork barbecue sandwiches on instead of buns.

People loved the bologna sandwich. "It was because of the sweet, tangy taste."

Flora puts a two-foot "stick" of bologna in the barbecue pit and keeps it there all day "so it'll get the taste. I'll have to cut it (the stick) or it'll burst open." One stick makes about 50 sandwiches, said her son, Ron Payne. Depending on what the customer wants, Flora either serves the bologna sliced off the stick or she deep fries it.

The TLC TV network featured the sandwich on the "Sensational Sandwiches" episode of its "Best Food Ever" show.

The bologna sandwich ranks fourth in popularity after their shoulder sandwiches, smoked sausage and ribs, Flora said. "I say, 'That's not the best sandwich we have.'"

On my last visit to Payne's, I ran into another friend, Markus McNeil, who is now in culinary school at L'École Culinaire. I asked him what he was ordering. "Just some bologna," he said.

His dad told him about Payne's barbecue bologna 10 years ago. McNeil now eats two Payne's barbecue bologna sandwiches a week.

Payne's Bar-B-Q is at 1762 Lamar; 272-1523.

-- Michael Donahue: 529-2797

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