It’s one of my favorite restaurants to visit.

Well, I guess I should say it used it be. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I want to see it succeed. But there are some things that need to change. Namely the mice. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Best of the Best

Boyce’s BBQ has been around since its 1845 founding in Augusta, GA. It has been known for serving some of the finest tasting pulled pork you’ve ever put in your mouth. Ribs, brisket, sausage, chicken. Man. It was all so good. Add a glass of sweet tea and a side of coleslaw and you’re set. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! They had various sauces, pies, sides, you name it. Lots of different preferences met there you might say. But it was all about being a place to eat BBQ.

I used to eat there three times a week in fact. At least three times! You could say it kind of became a second home for me. I have untold stories of friends I’ve made over the years over meals finished with a cup of coffee and lemon meringue pie.

But if it’s so great why did I leave?

First of all, I didn’t say I left. I just quit eating there. That is, I can’t keep giving my money to this place any longer. The astute observer might think it’s for any number of reasons. But really, it’s about the mice. Which we are still going to get to.

You see, it’s not about the name change. I mean, “unofficially” now it’s known as Beth’s BBQ. Whatever. That didn’t stop me from going. They do have Beth’s Grape Jelly on the menu but those of us who appreciate good jelly see right through that imitation purple stuff.

Nor is it about the theme nights they started doing to generate more revenue. I just stayed away from those. Yeah, they had these movie nights that had nothing to do with BBQ at all. They even had a Star Wars night and Starship Troopers serving and from what I’m told, dancing in such a way that you wouldn’t want to take your family to. Not a respectable family anyway. You wanna talk about keeping the main thing the main thing, don’t you think a BBQ place might be better served to advertise its spareribs?

It was kind of like the place was drifting from the vision of its founders. I did mention that to some of the staff, but when I did they started seating me in the very back corner about as close to the dumpster as you could get from the inside. But still, I kept eating.

Then there was the time they brought me a plate and I noticed they had put meat substitute on my burger instead of the real deal. I sent that one back. But I heard they were still doing that to a lot of tables. Cutting cost, I guess. Watering down the sauces and mixing the meat with substitutes.

Then there was the time that men at a few tables up by the front door made ungentlemanly gestures toward the lady serving them. Management kicked them all out. Which, they should have done! In fact, if I wasn’t so far in the back, I would have tripped them on the way out just for good measure. But then the strangest thing happened. The lady serving their tables brought those loser’s bills to my table and management made us pay for it.

Come to think of it, I think I’ve misspoken here.

All of these things have contributed to me pulling my funds. Like the time one of the chefs got caught stealing recipes from the BBQ place in North Carolina. If I wanted Carolinian BBQ that’s where I’d go, but I don’t because those meals aren’t even that great anyway. I don’t condone stealing recipes mind you, but the guy could have at least stolen something good to serve. I did say something about it, but it was brushed off as no big deal. What matters, they said, is that the people are getting fed. And then they offered me a free soy burger.

But what really set me off were the mice.

I guess it came up a few years ago. I thought I saw a mouse as we were making our way to our usual Wednesday night table. I mean, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know. But it concerned me enough to ask the man seating us. He was a bit brash with me as he rolled his eyes and told me “There are no mice here!”

Ok fine. But that went on for a few months until one day I know I saw a mouse. It crawled across my buddy’s shoe! We both saw it! And so I pulled the waiter aside. I didn’t want to make a stink. And I said, “hey man, we just saw a mouse.” To my surprise, he repeated the same line I had heard months before: “Dude! There are no mice here!”

Now, this really offended me. Because I had just seen the nasty rodent with my own two eyes. And it was like this guy was more upset with me that I pointed it out than he was with the fact that the restaurant was apparently infested with that ancient little foe.

Still, I kept buying meals from the place. But what I began to see on my visits, now that I knew what I was looking for, were various kinds of mice. It wasn’t like there was just one type to take care of. They seemed to be everywhere. More than once I had to point out mouse droppings on a plate and send it back even though they kept saying “There are no mice here!”

And here is where you say, “WHY DID YOU KEEP EATING THERE!?” But you don’t understand. It is my second home. And they really, honestly, did make some of the best BBQ known to man. So I kept going. But now I was determined not to let the rodent problems go unnoticed. If I could just let the right people in the restaurant know, they would fix it!

I talked with several levels of management. I wrote letters. I even drove to corporate in Nashville. And then I began to hear the story change. It had gone from “there are no mice here!” to “Look, a few mice at our place doesn’t overshadow our larger mission.” But the mission had changed. They had gone from serving good meals to hungry people to doing whatever was necessary to keep the revenue stream rolling.

The night I went into the kitchen was the tipping point.

6 of the management guys were in there. Turns out, some of them were actually responsible for bringing the rodents in! I heard one guy say he didn’t personally want rodents in his home but he was happy to work in a restaurant that had mice. One or two sort of stood against it, but not nearly as strong enough as I think one ought to be at this point of an infestation. Some were saying maybe the mice could be useful tools for analyzing the quality of the food they were serving!

Then the back door flings open. In walks, a man who I later found out was responsible for putting up more Boyce BBQs across the country. He pulls out a tiny little Ferris Wheel from his pocket. He begins to tell the 6 managers and some other leadership-looking fellows that his plan is to use the mice to attract more people to eat the BBQ! Instead of eliminating the problem, he wanted to use it to attract more people to the establishment. He was lauded as innovative and creative and given a raise.

That was enough for me. It had gone from “there are no mice here” to “there are a few mice, no big deal” to “we will use rodents to further our mission!” Come to think of it, I now really wonder about some of the real content of the meat I had been eating. Had they subtly been serving us mice!?

I whirled around and shouted to the dining area: “You’ve got to stop eating here! Leave now! There are mice everywhere and your food is not safe!”

I got quite a mixed reaction to that. Some said I shouldn’t have yelled that. It wasn’t nice and might upset some people’s digestion. Others said I should have spoken to management first in private. There were others on the other side that yelled, “Let’s just burn the place down then!” And, of course, there were a few of the guys saying, “There are no mice here!”

But I wasn’t for any of that. I just couldn’t keep having my money go to a place that was knowingly serving people bad food. My money was only helping them continue in these ways without addressing the problems. My money was going to help make people sick.

Some people decided to stop eating there with me. I’m glad about that. I know the waiters have to make money. I know the cooks and the hostess need a paycheck. I’m not unsympathetic to these realities. But if I don’t stop going, they are never going to address the real issues and get back to serving the greatest BBQ known to man.

I know they won’t miss my little bit of money. But I’ve encouraged others to stop going too. Maybe if enough of us do it they’ll see what needs to be done: exterminate the mice and change the leadership.

If they’ll get the message or not, I don’t know.


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