I went to The Parson’s Son BBQ for a weekday lunch, arriving early so as not to miss out on the ribs. I had heard they sell out fast. My plan was to eat lunch solo, then take home dinner for my family. The house caters to working people with limited lunch time, offering handy to-go meal options as well as catering services. They also offer a discount to military, law enforcement and first responder personnel.
I think I was the first customer in that day. I could smell a multitude of good things cooking, emphasis on the savory scent of smoked meats. The restaurant is roughly square in shape. The order counter and kitchen are on the back wall, and there’s seating of assorted sizes on both sides of a middle partition. The walls are wood paneled, with bright corrugated metal trim, some decorator touches, and a service counter with their celebrated seven sauces, all house made, with suggestions on which barbecue to pair them with. Blues music—T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and their colleagues—plays over the sound system, in accordance with the scriptures.
I was greeted by a friendly staffer. She told me the day’s specials, including one involving an enormous, complex, possibly hazardous combination of food called the Wrecking Roll. “We’re not your cardiologist,” she observed with a smile. I took a few minutes to check out the menu while she continued preparing some ribs and chicken, brought out from the fragrant kitchen to rest before carving or pulling.
The Parson’s Son menu stands four-square for barbecue, offering pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, “burnt ends” (the charred, smoky “debris” trimmed from barbecue), pork ribs (St. Louis style, with a dry rub), and sausage. There’s no fish, no salads except cole slaw, and the closest thing to a vegetarian entree was the Big Spud, a baked potato with butter, cheese… and meat. Unless you count the apple and cherry cobbler, one of the desserts available that day. I honestly can’t recall what the other was, because I stopped listening once I heard “apple and cherry cobbler.” It might have been banana pudding, but don’t quote me.
To dine in, I ordered a large pulled pork sandwich platter, which came with a choice of one “basic” side—potato chips, baked beans, cole slaw, hot slaw, green beans, or potato salad. There are also premium sides of mac and cheese, red beans and rice, and sweet potato casserole for an extra charge. I chose the baked beans, which, for the record, come with a garnish of meat.
To go, I ordered a half-rack of ribs, a three-meat platter with pulled pork, chicken and brisket, plus sides of sweet potato casserole and red beans and rice. Both meals come with Texas toast.
That evening we broke out the takeout. Parson’s Son treats you right even when they pack. Each of the three meats was nearly wrapped in absorbent paper to retain their individuality. All meats were silky and expertly pulled. My wife and I split the ribs, which were lean and falling apart, without needing any sauce at all. The red beans and rice was generously garnished with sausage, and had a sneaky heat. The sweet potatoes were creamy, with a butter and sugar topping.
The Parson’s Son sits on the corner of a side street. It helps that they’ve placed a colorful sign, depicting a female pig standing in a Betty Grable-style pinup pose. I challenge anyone to look away from it.
I visited the sauce bar. The seven sauces are Alabama White sauce (mayo-based, black pepper), Southern Belle (sweet), Georgia Peach (mustard, tomato, peach), North Carolina Tang (thin and vinegary), Tennessee Summer (spicy, tomato based), Lucifer’s Revenge (the Tennessee, but hotter), and Satan’s Fury (sweet, smoky, notes of hellfire). Piously, I chose the first five. I also ordered the cobbler. They were just taking it from the oven.
My lunch arrived (they considerately waited to package the takeout until I was ready to leave). I cut the sandwich in two. It was loaded with strands and chunks of lush, savory smoked pig. Some bites melt-in-the-mouth, others were crisped and chewy. It needed a knife and fork, so I could add different sauces as I tried each bite. I recommend the Tang as a base (cuts the richness just right), and then eater’s choice for succeeding bites. The beans were sweet and smoky.
I had just a bite of the cobbler, which ran with butter, with a caramelized crust.
Other choices are barbecue nachos, big spud, rib and chicken combos, and a sampler platter. Consider the Sow Sandwich, but you’ll be cautioned, “Don’t order unless you are hungry!”
THE PARSON’S SON BBQ
6 Walter Martin Road
Fort Walton Beach
Hours: Open Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Reservations: Available for Parties of More Than Six
Children’s Menu: Yes
Barbecue is the gospel at The Parson’s Son. Choose from melt-in-your-mouth ribs, pork, chicken, brisket, and sausage. All combinations are available, from sandwiches to full meals. sides include red beans and rice, sweet potato casserole, and you get seven sauces to choose from. Friendly service, daily specials, $5-24.