The Guilty Pleasure: Smoked Sweet Potato Where To Get It: Joe's Real BBQ Price: $5.49 ($8.49 with meat on top) What It Really Costs: It's practically health food, until the magic words: Cinnamon butter.
Food-loving folk everywhere adore the change to cold weather for one big reason: Seasonal food. As soon as the calendar hits October, eateries everywhere unleash a torrent of autumnal delicacies, usually involving pumpkin.
Sweet Republic has swoon-worthy pumpkin ice cream pies. My Twitter stream becomes a flash flood when Starbucks brings back the Pumpkin Spice Latte. And of course, the patron saint of guilty pleasures, McDonald's McRib, is on its way very soon.
You can keep 'em all.
East Valley residents are fortunate folk. They have easy access to one of my favorite cold-season offerings: Sweet potatoes at Joe's Real BBQ. These aren't your average yams. There's no casserole dish, and definitely no mini marshmallows to be found anywhere. At Joe's, they figure simpler is better, and smoke massive (at least a pound) whole sweet potatoes over pecan wood. While they're mighty good au naturel, there are two highly recommended enhancements.
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First, get some meat. I usually love their turkey (my thoughts were leaning to Thanksgiving coming early when I ordered it), but it meekly hides under the sweet potato's earthy flavor. Go for something involving pig. Pulled pork is obvious, but the ham and the hot links both have their own allure.
Second, when they ask if you want cinnamon butter, say yes. Too much of a good thing proves wonderful here, as the friendly people behind the counter generously dollop the sweetened blend on what was once a healthy meal. In my rough estimation, there's at least a half-stick of butter involved. Possibly closer to a whole stick. If you opt for a slice of the irresistible cornbread on the side, there's even more waiting there.
Unlike many pumpkin offerings, the sweet potato sticks around through the winter. It's better to just head out right now so you can get your fix several times while the weather is mild. While I'm probably going to find myself driving across town very soon for my smoked sweet potato fix, I can't help but wonder: Has anyone seen other places where sweet potatoes don't play second fiddle to pumpkin? I'd love to know.