I headed for home Sunday afternoon, after dropping off Carl at his place south of Richmond. We have a choice when we come back from Carl's: we can take our chances with the heavy traffic on I-95, chancing that we won't get hung up going around DC and Baltimore (and pay $11 worth of tolls), or we can peel off onto US Rt. 301, through the woods of Fort A.P. Hill and across the Potomac on the big bridge at Dahlgren, chancing that there's no accidents and the traffic lights don't hit us wrong.
I decided to take the road less-traveled. It was a nice day, traffic wasn't too heavy, and, um...there's Johnny Boy's Ribs on 301 in La Plata, Maryland. I figured by the time I got to Johnny Boy's, I'd be ready for lunch. After a real easy run over the river and through the woods, I pulled off the road and smelled that aroma of hickory smoke. Mmm, boy. I've only eaten here once before, years ago, and I remember mostly that it was cold and windy as I determinedly ate my minced pork at the outside picnic table (no indoor seating at Johnny Boy's). I didn't really know what I was eating, didn't have any kind of appreciation for it. Today, I was ready.
I was going to get minced pork, just to make things fair, when I saw the sign. The name of the place is Johnny Boy's Ribs, I thought, and remembered what Carl had said earlier that morning: sometimes, ribs are just what you want. Screw it: "Half a slab, please, with a side of beans."
The ribs came in a neatly folded cardboard box, lined with foil; the beans in a styro container. The beans were okay, tasted like doctored canned beans: good, but not a lot better than I can do at home. The ribs, though, were excellent. Cut into individual pigsicles, they were meaty and ripe with smoke, with the pinkness that shows the smoke has penetrated the meat.
Johnny Boy's is well-known for their Mama Sophie's sauce, and I should have, I guess, but I wanted to taste the meat. If that was a mistake, it's one I can happily live with. I sucked every bit of meat from the bones, delighting in the meatier ones, gnawing on the leaner ones, and licking the scrumptious grease from my fingers. I took my time, as good ribs will force you to do, and enjoyed every minute.
When I was done, I cleaned up, tossed my trash, got back in the car, and headed north, sticking to Rt. 301 and trying a new route, across the Bay Bridge and up the DelMarVa to Dover. It worked well, and the flat Eastern Shore landscape looked gorgeous in the late afternoon light. I got home about 7:00, and gave Penderyn a big old hickory-smoked bone from Allen & Son. He took it out in the backyard and gnawed on it for an hour in the dark. I knew how he felt.