Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leatha's Barbecue (9/10) - 6374 U S Highway 98 # D, Hattiesburg, MS 39402

Heading towards Mississippi on I-20W/I-59S, I was excited to digest my lunch from the previous three restaurants before finally arriving at the opportunity to try Leatha's Barbecue in Hattiesburg.  Leatha's was closed  my previous attempt, and I was now the wiser to travel on a Wednesday.  Leatha's is located behind an RV dealership in Hattiesburg, home of Southern Miss, UVA's Al Groh's most hated rival, and Brett "Nobody Cover the Wide Receiver Against Brett Favre in Two Hand Touch - Twice" Favre.  I had heard great things about Leatha's: it's a family run restaurant (the waitresses are Leatha's daughters) and the ribs are supposedly sensational.

The restaurant is one large rectangular room with a partition in the rear that separates the kitchen from the customers.  I took a seat against the far right wall directly in front of a picture of Leatha and B.B. King and an autographed framed picture of Jason Campbell.  I decided to order the Jumbo Man, and when I started watching the television that hung above the kitchen I realized that I was watching the local news from LA.  To clarify, I asked the waitress to please confirm that we were watching LA news in Hattiesburg.  "Only LA and New York local stations for us in here."  "And why are you wearing a BBQ Shop t-shirt in here?  You trying to cause trouble?" she jokingly asked.

She brought out a plate of baby back ribs, pulled pork, and half-chicken.  A half-slab of ribs sat atop a large mound of pork, and a chicken leg + thigh combo poked its head out the side of the pile.  I had heard about how good Leatha's ribs were supposed to be, and even my high expectations didn't prepare me for what I was ready to experience.  The ribs had a great flavor and were incredibly tender.  After literally sucking the meat straight from the bone, I found myself chewing on the leftover blades trying to scrape off any remaining residue.  I ate a little of the drumstick, which was also delicious and moist, before returning my attention back to the ribs.  When the ribs were demolished, I ate as much  pork and chicken as I could.  They were both extremely moist and fresh with a good solid flavor that was complimented by Leatha's sweet barbecue sauce.

I called Murph and told him that I was bringing him a delicious present to New Orleans.  I ordered an additional full slab and asked the waitresses whether I could visit the pits.  They proudly and happily obliged and walked me through the kitchen towards the pit out back.

Leatha's smoker was quite phallic and resembled a Space Shuttle.  A fire box sits at the foot of a vertical smoker and in between two separate horizontal smokers.  Leatha's uses hickory, oak, and pecan woods to smoke its ribs.  The ribs are smoked vertically, hooked to the top of the vertical smoker.  Although unique, I am unsure how vertically smoking a rib could potentially alter its flavor.  The drippings fall to the bottom of the smoker rather than on hot coals; so the idea that the cooked fat/grease is vaporized and cooked back into the meat is false.      

I left for New Orleans and showed up at Murph's apartment is a plethora of barbecue leftovers from my day's travels.  He sampled the meats and gave a hearty fist pump when he tried the slab from Leatha's.  I hope at some point he takes a few of his Tulane Med School buddies up to Hattiesburg for a rib showdown.

I internally debated between a 9 or 10 for Leatha's, but decided that the pork and chicken were not exceptional enough to justify the vaunted perfect 10 rating.

Leatha's Bar-B-Que Inn on Urbanspoon

7 comments:

  1. Leatha's makes good BBQ, but it's not the best in Hattiesburg.

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  2. Oh really well who's got the best BBQ in Hattiesburg??

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  3. The SHED!!!! Coming October 12th!! Come on down to mobile street (where the bottling company "boco" used to be and enjoy BLUES, BREWS, AND BAR-B-QUE!!!!!

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  4. The Shed is better if you want to watch football/sports, but the ribs are better at Leatha's for sure.

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  5. The Shed's barbecue is good, but not Leatha's good.

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  6. You all are crazy! How could you ever compare any food to Letha s? The cooks there are the best in the world. You go Letha you are the best by far.

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  7. Hub food blogger just dislikes Leatha's for some irrational reason. He claims some other place is better when it isn't even close, has done reviews of chain restaurants but not even reviewed the most famous bbq place in his own town, and refers to Leatha's as stuff like "the place that gets more press" in his reviews of subpar bbq places that he ranks above Leatha's. Doesn't even refer to it by name. Don't listen to him. There is a reason that Leatha's is the only place in Hattiesburg that anyone outside of Hattiesburg has heard of. And next time you go, get the beef ribs. By far the best tasting, and most overlooked, meat there. Simply awesome.

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Ratings and Reviews

In order to provide a consistent grading standard across each restaurant/region, I order a barbecue pork sandwich (and other meats/sides if a restaurant/region specializes in another specialty). In addition to comparing the quality of food, I will also take into consideration other intangibles (ambiance, atmosphere, service, authenticity, etc.) in my ratings as I deem appropriate.

Basically, a 10/10 represents an incredible meal, while a 6/10 score indicates a decent dining experience but a substantial number of dishes fell short of great. Lower scores indicate unpleasant experiences which I would most likely not even recommend to my worst enemy (Jonas Singer).

I reserve the right to continuously edit/update previous posts and to change rating scores as I see fit.