Grills and smokers—check. Picnic tables—check. Repurposed gas station—check. These three signs of great barbecue are evident as soon as you approach Love That BBQ, Walter and Bonny Love’s barbecue place in South Knoxville. The “love” in Love That BBQ is a nod to the owners’ last name, but it’s clear the Loves have a love of all things ’cue.
Walter has lived in South Knoxville his entire life. “I went to Vestal University,” he quips. Bonny’s from Texas. “That’s where our brisket comes from,” she says. The Loves have catered locally for about 15 years. “We’ve done weddings, tractor pulls, reunions, and UT football games,” says Walter. “But every time we’d drive by this place, we’d say, ‘We’re going to open up [a restaurant] right here.’ Even when we were kidding about it.” Almost a year ago, the Loves got serious about it and opened up Love That BBQ in the former gas station. “I could always picture smokers where the pumps used to be,” says Walter.
The menu includes sandwiches, plates, and family packs. You have your choice of ribs, pulled pork, chicken, or brisket. They also serve hot hogs, smoked sausage, smoked bologna, nachos, and hamburgers. “The hamburger’s the only thing not done in the smoker,” he says.
The house-made barbecue sauce comes in mild, hot, and smokin’ hot. “Bonny wanted me to enter my barbecue sauce in Memphis in May,” says Walter, “but if you win, you have to give them your recipe, and we didn’t want to do that.”
The sides include slaw made every morning by Walter’s 82-year-old mother. According to Walter, “She looks forward to it.” Bonny prepares all the other sides. “We have women come in with a fancy crystal bowl, and we fill it up with potato salad for them to take somewhere. A lot of people come in say ‘It tastes like the potato salad my grandmother used to make.’” The hushpuppies put most to shame: soft and delicate with hints of green pepper, onions, and garlic.
Bonny also bakes fresh desserts every morning. The banana pudding, made with Nutter Butter peanut butter cookies and “lots of bananas,” is served every Tuesday and Thursday. Cakes include Oreo cake adorned with Oreo chips, peanut butter cake, coconut cake, strawberry cake made with fresh berries in season, and, Walter’s favorite, carrot cake.
Love That BBQ
1901 Maryville Pike
Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Slab of Ribs: The crisp, sauce-soaked skin on the ribs is as delectable as the tender, juicy meat underneath. “These are too tender to win at Memphis in May,” says Walter. “They like it to peel off like bark.”
Pulled Pork Sandwich Platter: The sandwich, piled high with pulled pork, comes with two hushpuppies and your choice of two sides. You can’t go wrong with the creamy potato salad complete with dusting of paprika and baked beans with bits of green peppers and onions.
BBQ Nachos: Described as a favorite of college students because “they can make a meal out of it for under $6,” this is a gigantic meal for one, a large meal for two, and plenty for a table of four to share.