Where’s the cheese on that mac? Viral tweet sends Texas reporter in search of truth
I wish I could say every day started like this, but today was special. I was on the hunt for mac and cheese.
It all started when my editor mentioned a viral tweet of a photo of a barbecue plate. A quick glance didn’t reveal much. But a closer inspection showed what all the hullabaloo was about.
Beside the brisket, ribs, green beans and toast, a bowl of mac and cheese sat next to a small dish of... shredded cheese?
My curiosity piqued, I thought, “Could that just be more cheese for the macaroni?” Turns out the twitterverse was asking the same question.
Nobody make BBQ like in Virginia… I’m in heaven rn pic.twitter.com/yXSqtEKMzZ
— ً (@eagIesbetter) March 11, 2023
As a Houstonian, who now lives in Virginia, I am always wanting good barbecue. While Virginia barbecue don't hit like Houston BBQ, it don't look nothing like this mess. https://t.co/ESGiAKIgAl
— Maco L. Faniel (@macofaniel) March 12, 2023
A poster on Twitter claimed the plate of barbecue was from Virginia, much to the chagrin of many native Virginians. In total, the tweet garnered over 32 million views — even catching the eye of Virginia state senator, L. Louise Lucas.
Lucas debunked the claim on Instagram arguing that the plate could not possibly be from a restaurant in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “After some investigation we learned this picture was taken in Texas so I refer all questions to them,” Lucas wrote.
I am aware of this fake photo circulating on the internet of Virginia BBQ. Nothing like this has ever been served in our Commonwealth. After some investigation we learned this picture was actually taken in Texas so I refer all questions to them. pic.twitter.com/5MuTnfSuY9
— L. Louise Lucas (@SenLouiseLucas) March 13, 2023
A Twitter mac and cheese debate: Where’s the cheese?
The plot, or should I say the cheese in this case, thickens. I scoured the comments and found someone linked the photo to a Yelp page for the Decatur barbecue restaurant, Ritzy B’s Smokehouse and Grill.
Digging deeper, I discovered that the photo was originally posted on Twitter almost a year ago by someone who said they did stop by Ritzy B’s — but without the false claim that the plate of barbecue came from Virginia. Instead, the tweet simply read, “Lets see whats up with Texas BBQ”.
The one thing that had offended the barbecue sensibilities of so many was the container of yellow shredded cheese sitting next to a bowl of macaroni so pale many opined it had no cheese. I had to know the truth.
"Sure hon, we've got Mac. But the cheese is extra."
— Mike Slichenmyer (@mikeslich) March 12, 2023
So, I hopped in my car and drove the 56 miles to Decatur to find out for myself what was up with the cheese. Or, lack thereof.
As I approached the front door of Ritzy B’s, a cool breeze brushed the back of my neck, setting off my Spidey senses like I was about to face a foe.
The restaurant was modestly busy for lunch for a Friday. As I stepped up to order, I found myself anxious about what I was going to find out. The man cutting the meat asked what I wanted, I told him, “The brisket plate please.”
A few quick and careful knife cuts later, slivers of sliced brisket lay on my tray. Next were the sides, which were self-serve, so I scooped up a serving of beans, and of course, a bowl of mac and cheese.
For the record, a cup of shredded yellow cheese did NOT come with my mac and cheese.
I pondered if maybe the snarky poster simply misspoke about where they ate. Then, like an M. Night Shyamalan movie plot twist, my jaw hit the floor when I saw it.
There on one corner of the restaurant was a cubby full of small containers of shredded yellow cheese next to pickles and other barbecue condiments.
This wasn’t Ritzy B’s flouting a sacred rule of barbecue
Then it hit me. The shredded cheese wasn’t for the mac and cheese. No. It’s for the baked potato.
This wasn’t Ritzy B’s flouting a sacred rule of barbecue. For whatever reason when the original Twitter poster sent their photo into the twitterverse, the cup of shredded cheese was in it.
As sharp as the mockery was about the mac and cheese, I found it to be full of savory heat. It’s a jalapeno mac with chopped bacon. And it was plenty cheesy. There was no need for a side of shredded help.
Ritzy B’s owner Brandi Davis laughed off the digital kerfuffle telling me she had no idea it was even making the rounds.
“It’s great news that people are out there talking about my food, I mean I’m honored,” Davis said. “I’m glad that it got posted, even though they thought the cheese was missing from the mac and cheese.”
Davis, who also owns both Brandi’s Country Kitchen locations in Decatur and Bridgeport, opened the barbecue joint two years ago.
She used to work at the steakhouse that was in Ritzy B’s current location, so when the venue went up for sale, she cashed in to buy the business. Barbecue is different from what Davis is used to, but she said the last two years have been successful.
Now that the cheesy controversy is behind us, Davis recommends the smoked turkey breast. Another favorite of hers is the Texas twinkie, which is a jalapeno stuffed with brisket and cheese.
As for the digital debate over Virginia and Texas barbecue, Davis is taking it all in stride.
“Nothing like free publicity,” Davis joked.