Front Porch offers ‘best ribs around’ and more

Published 5:25 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

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By Angie Long

America loves the “Q”–barbecue, that is. I am pretty fond of it myself. Having seen some posts from friends on Facebook about a new restaurant offering barbecue and what the eatery describes as the best ribs around, I decided I needed to take a trip to Fort Deposit to Front Porch BBQ and check it out for myself.

I drove the winding route of I-85 from Greenville into Lowndes County and through downtown Fort Deposit. Just a short distance from exit 142, there it was on the right hand side–a modest red and white wood frame building, complete with a front porch and vintage-look soft drink signs on display outside. It’s the kind of unpretentious-looking spot that often serves the best food.

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Inside, there’s plenty of natural wood and tin, giving the place the feel of a cozy cabin. A number of hunting prints in rustic frames line the restaurant’s walls, and unlike some “barbecue joints,” there are enough tables to comfortably seat between 40 and 50 diners.

Straight ahead is the counter where you place your orders, paying in advance and it’s the spot to pick up those to-go meals.

I picked up a menu—no shortage of selections in pork, chicken, catfish plus good old-fashioned hamburgers–and those ribs. Decisions, decisions.

I ordered the pulled pork plate which comes with two sides (I chose fried okra and coleslaw; there are also baked beans, mac and cheese, collards and several more choices) and a fried chicken breast.

Beverages—tea and a variety of soft drinks–are serve-yourself. I prepared a mixture of sweet and unsweetened tea and sat down to sip and relax.

“The order is going to take a little longer, they’ve got to cook that chicken breast for you,” the waitress explained. Having grown up on a poultry farm with a mom who mastered the art of frying the perfect chicken, I know you can’t rush certain things. I was content to wait.

That’s not to say I didn’t perk up when manager Kyle Conatser brought out a rib for me to sample. It had been a long time since breakfast.

“I honestly think we have the best ribs around,” Conatser said as he watched me take a bite of the tender, moist, flavorful meat and grinned. “Judging by the look on your face, you agree!”

It was good—and fresh.

“We cook our ribs every day, and we cook several batches during the day. The secret is slow cooking over indirect heat . . . that allows our seasonings to really soak in,” Conatser explained, before giving me another impish grin. “I can’t tell you more than that—it’s a secret.”

Conatser learned the art of fixing great ribs while working four-and-a-half years at Highland Home’s It Don’t Matter restaurant, owned by Pete Hayes.

“A few years ago, Pete bought a portable smoker and the two of us would travel to different events and cook ribs and they were really popular. So Pete decided to open another restaurant here in Fort Deposit to focus on ribs. We opened up here in June,” Conatser said.

After whetting my appetite with the rib, I was ready to dig in when my lunch was delivered to me.

The chicken was, as promised, freshly cooked, the steam rising from the moist meat as I broke through the crispy golden crust. Mama would have approved.

“We use the same special breading that is used by It Don’t Matter—it is made just for us,” Conatser said. “The only thing is it’s on the buffet at the other restaurant, and here you do need to give us 20 minutes to fix it for you.”

Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Next, I sampled the pulled pork, taking a few bites of the meat before I added Front Porch’s signature sauce.

The pork was tender and moist with a distinctive smoky undertone, flavorful without the sauce. With the sauce . . . can you say “yum,” folks?

The plate also comes with two slices of light bread, but this diabetic, who was already cheating somewhat on her diet, decided to forgo the bread and concentrate on the meat and sides. The okra was crisp and tasty and the coleslaw, suitably creamy with a slight tang. The portion sizes were generous, and I needed that doggie bag Conatser requested for me to carry all my leftovers home.

I asked him what the most popular menu items were for the local folks.

“Gizzards and pulled pork,” he replied with little hesitation. “We in no way anticipated how popular gizzards would be. What It Don’t Matter needs for a week in gizzards, we were selling in a couple of days.

“People also love our fresh fried pork rinds. I’d only had the bagged kind before,and I liked them—but there’s no comparison with fresh. They are still popping and sizzling on the customer’s plates after they are brought out.”

And Conatser’s personal favorite Front Porch item?

“Most definitely, the ribs. And not just because I cook them myself,” he said with another smile. “I use to go to places and order ribs and they tasted like they were cooked on a Tuesday and I was there on Thursday, you know? I honestly believe we have the best ribs in a 50 or 60-mile radius of Fort Deposit.”

And maybe even further than that.

“A man was traveling on 65 with his daughter this summer, heading back down to Pensacola, and he got off at this exit, saw our sign and decided to check us out. And he really, really loved our ribs,” Conatser explains.

“Well, a few weeks later the staff here tells me he was back and ordered a whole rack of ribs. I figured he had business to tend to up here, and they said, ‘Oh, no. He told us he woke up this morning thinking about our ribs, and he gassed up the car and came to Fort Deposit to get some.”

Another customer told Conatser that he hadn’t had such good ribs since he left Detroit 20 years ago.

“We definitely have the food part down. Now we are working at getting great recognition that we are here,” the manager said.

Front Porch BBQ is currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Conatser says both days and hours are subject to change in the future.

“As we become more firmly established, we want to expand the days. And we are already looking at opening earlier so we can also offer breakfast.”

They also take special orders. “Just give us a day or two’s notice, and if you need a slab of ribs or enough pulled pork for a party or a family reunion, we can make that happen for you,” Conatser said.

Front Porch BBQ is located at 881 Old Fort Road, just outside of Fort Deposit, and an easy drive from surrounding communities and towns. Visit the Front Porch BBQ page on Facebook to see their complete menu, or call them at (334) 404-4440.

Tell them Angie sent you.

Kyle Conatser, manager of Front Porch BBQ in Fort Deposit, hopes to become known as the best spot for ribs within a 60-mile radius of the eatery.  The owners of the popular It Don't Matter restaurant in Highland Home are operating Front Porch, which opened in June of this year. Conatser spent more than four years working with owners Pete and Liz Hayes, learning the fine art of cooking tender and flavorful ribs. 

Kyle Conatser, manager of Front Porch BBQ in Fort Deposit, hopes to become known as the best spot for ribs within a 60-mile radius of the eatery. Front Porch opened in June of this year. Conatser spent more than four years working with owners Pete Hayes, learning the fine art of cooking tender and flavorful ribs.

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