Editor’s note: Adam Brandt is a graduate from the Cobra Kai School of Culinary Callousness, where he received their highest award, the Red Apron of Merciless Eating. Aside from eating and talking about eating, he makes pots, paintings, prints, books, photographs, and generally, a big mess. He has been the studio assistant at Mudpuppy Pottery for almost nine years and is attending a local university in a desperate attempt to earn a biology degree. Feel free to give him a hard time.
If someone were to tell me to drive all the way out to Cedarville for a bologna sandwich I would think that they had a few screws loose in the ole noggin’. Well, that was yesterday. Today, I would gladly drive twice the distance if it meant that I got to eat one of IMA Jerk’s smoked bologna sandwiches with fries.
Located way out of the way, actually about a seven-minute drive from the Wal-Mart supercenter in Van Buren, is IMA Jerk BBQ, home of the most delicious bologna sandwiches you will ever have the pleasure of sinking your teeth into.
IMA Jerk is a family-oriented and very friendly BBQ joint owned and operated by Keenan Winters and family. They are the type of restaurant that is open from “11am to Whenever”. You will know Keenan when you see him. He’s the guy in the red apron (I like him already) standing in the pass-through window slinging smoky meat products onto white dinnerware. Once he gets caught up in the kitchen he will make his way into the dining room and visit with every table to ensure that his guests’ dining experience is better than they expected.
When I say that it is a family restaurant, I mean it. There are pictures and memorabilia from his family life everywhere. And boy, do they love them some dirt bikes. The sign out front even features a hog on a bike. The only downside to the whole restaurant’s atmosphere is how eerily quiet it is. As a person who cannot stand the sound of himself chewing, let alone other people, a little bluegrass or old gospel music goes a long way.
Enough of chewing the fat, let’s talk about the meat. IMA Jerk offers a pretty wide selection of smoked meats that are eagerly awaiting the downpour of Keenan’s sweet and peppery BBQ sauce. There are ribs, of course, and brisket, pulled pork, the yummy bologna, mild and hot links, and chicken. You have to admit that there are very few places around here that will serve you half of a chicken on a plate with fried okra and cranberry slaw.
Overall the meat has a pleasantly mild smoky flavor and leaned a little to the dry side, but once you soak it in sauce it worked out well. For those of you who cannot make up their mind what to order, IMA Jerk offers a combo platter that gives you a little of everything plus two sides. Sure it costs a little extra coin, but it is worth it. The fries are homemade, crispy, and, surprisingly, not greasy. The cranberry slaw is refreshing, tangy, and, despite my skepticism, quite delicious.
And, as I stated earlier, you’ve gotta try the bologna sandwich.
As far as price goes, it is about par for good BBQ. Is it worth the drive to the sticks? Heck, yeah. Be warned, though, I have heard tale of them being so busy that they run out of food. That’s gotta tell you something about the quality of food and service that IMA Jerk offers. So, if you are going to drive a long way, you should consider calling first.
I would love to stay and chat, but all of this talk about BBQ has got my tummy grumbling for the leftovers that are waiting for me in my fridge. Despite the fact that it has my name written on it, IMA Jerk’s BBQ has been known to cause people to break the rules and eat my leftovers.
When he’s not beating his eggs, Adam makes time to respond to e-mails that get past his hard-ass spam filter. You can try to reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam also has this thing called Sandwich Control.