Greg Gatlin is in charge of the smoker, but he also bustles around taking orders and tidying up. So does his mom, who is responsible for the fine bread pudding and other sweets. After a wait—which is often lengthy—you’ll receive plates neatly stacked with precisely sliced meat. In case you’ve ever wondered what the deal is with different ribs, you’re in luck: Gatlin’s has two kinds. Side by side, you’ll see that the baby backs are shorter and more curved, with a rounder bone and more of the meat on the top. Now compare the St. Louis ribs. They’re bigger, and the bone is flatter and straighter, with more highly marbled meat. (If a little flap of meat and cartilage called the rib tip had been left on, you’d have a sparerib.) Arguments can get heated about which is better, but we thought they were both excellent and exceptionally moist. Our lean brisket, covered in a crust as black as midnight, was also impressive, though it did need more salt. But it was the three kinds of sausage that got our attention, especially the venison, with robust flavor and a shiny, snappy natural casing. The chicken, sad to say, was very dry. Carry your order to a picnic table outside or settle down in the small room adorned with snapshots and a painting of a white-robed Jesus holding a miniature model of Gatlin’s in his hands.
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