Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Bennett's, The Spark Is Gone (Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN)

   One of the hard things about writing reviews over the course of the years is the way things change, for the worse or the better. Many restaurants improve as their owners get more experienced, or maybe more often, go downhill with new management or employees that no longer care. Also, personal tastes change. I know for sure when I started writing this blog in 2004, I wasn't near as picky about good barbecue as I am today. This is mostly due to the many great places I've found that put to shame what I used to think of as decent food. I've also learned a lot over the years, and am still learning. So looking back at some of my old posts makes me cringe sometimes, especially in the case of Bennett's, which previously I had excitedly praised. (If you really want to embarrass me, go ahead and read the old post here.)
   Anyway, it has become somewhat of a tradition among my wife's family to stop here when we vacation in the Smoky Mountains. We made another trip there this fall, and I looked forward to seeing how the Bennett's experience compared to my memories. The night we visited was dark and cold, and the place was only half full. It was Halloween night, and all the waitresses wore masks, some with good reason.
   We ordered a sampler platter, and when it finally arrived it became obvious that any fire there ever was had gone out- figuratively and literally, as the ribs we got showed no sign of smokiness at all. They tasted like they had been boiled for a while to get them tender, then dunked in sauce. The rest of the meal was similar: edible, but not satisfying, and would have been highly disappointing for anyone who had read my old review.
   For a few days, I toyed with the idea of just deleting it, but gradually came up with another idea. Here then, is my breakup letter to Bennett's:

Dear Bennett's,

We shared some good times in my younger days. Maybe I was young and stupid, and naively mesmerized by your twinkling neon lights. Or maybe then you actually had an honest soul. Either way, you charmed me into believing that somehow you were different from the other chains, that you would never break my heart. I was excited for the thrilling future we would share. But the years have passed, and we have grown apart. Your fake smoke perfume can no longer cover for your lack of taste. Outside, you look much the same, but you don't even try to make me happy. I too have changed. I need more, need something real. I am older and wiser now, and can clearly see that you are not right for me. I'm sorry Bennett's. I'm moving on. I don't love you anymore.


Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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