We first heard of Maurice many years ago. We used to be regulars at the Winterhawk Bluegrass Festival in upstate New York. There was (still is?) a group that always staked out the very highest spot on the grounds and would roast a pig for Saturday night. They had a sign that read, "Flying Pig BBQ Service." One year, Nicole's sister, Mo, and Mo's friend, Sheila, were camping up near the Flying Pig BBQ Service, and they met a fellow named Bob who was part of that crew. Sheila and Bob hit it off well and eventually got married.
Get to the point, Cormen! OK, you see, Bob told us about some BBQ god named Maurice and that you could order his sauce by calling 1-800-MAURICE.
We jump to last year, when while visiting my parents in Florida, I found a bottle of Maurice's sauce at a Publix market. I had to try it.
It was unlike any BBQ sauce I had ever had. It was based on yellow mustard. It was like a big bottle of French's mustard with a few additives. I hate French's mustard. (And just imagine how disappointed our French neighbors in Capitola were when they bought a jar of it, thinking it was French mustard!) I tasted this stuff. Yuck. I tried it again, just to make sure that my palate hadn't been fooled. It hadn't. I dumped the rest of the bottle down the drain.
I forget who said it, but someone called Maurice's sauce "baby poop." I quite agree.
Yet I had to try Maurice's Piggy Park. Lolis Eric Elie liked it in Smokestack Lightning, and he had every reason not to, given Maurice Bessinger's background. (More on that in a moment.) And the Sterns liked it in Eat Your Way Across the USA (but we know what that means...it means that Maurice's serves food).
Maurice's Piggy Park isn't just a BBQ restaurant. It's a BBQ complex. There's a restaurant.
There are carports with service.
There's an employment office, and Bible study headquarters.
There's also a little park out back just across the street, and behind the park are some Maurice trucks and trailers.
We are talking about more than just a little bit of self promotion here.
But how is the BBQ at Maurice's?
Never has BBQ stirred so much controversy in the Cormen family.
We had lunch there. Nicole got pulled pork with Maurice's original sauce. She liked it. A lot. I tasted it, and it was OK, but the fact is that I don't like French's mustard.
I got chicken and ribs. I figured they'd be OK, since Lolis Eric Elie liked the ribs in the sampler plate he'd gotten.
They were disgusting.
The chicken and ribs had been sitting out for too long and were dried out. They also had little flavor. And the sauce on them was a cruel mutation of the French's mustard in Nicole's pulled pork. It had honey and was a thick, sweet paste that made the meat taste heavy.
Nicole liked the three vegetables that came with her meat and three. And I liked the hash and rice. But the chicken and ribs...you couldn't pay me to eat that that stuff.
Nicole says that Maurice gets the Bluster Prize for self promotion. There are photos of him all over the restaurant, including when he was running for Governor of South Carolina in the 1970s. Maurice was quite the segregationist back in those days. He was subsequently reborn and has recanted his segregationist beliefs.
I was so disappointed by Maurice's that we returned to Lexington that evening for dinner so that we could finish off the Six-Pack.