Moonlite Bar-B-Q

Review by: Michael Stern

Owensboro, Kentucky, considers itself the barbecue capital of the world. Of all the top smokestacks in this part of the state, Moonlite is the grandest: a huge establishment with spacious dining rooms and an annex selling sauce, meats-to-go, and souvenir hats. The parking lot has one space reserved for the house fork-lift, used to tote cords of hickory to the smoke pit.

In the tradition of an old-time southern pig-pickin’, the buffet is spectacular. It occupies its own dedicated room, with salads and desserts on one side, vegetables and meats on the other. There are barbecued chicken, ribs, pulled pork, spectacularly succulent beef brisket, and even a pan of non-barbecued sliced country ham that is firm and salty.

And there is western Kentucky’s favorite barbecue meat, mutton. Cooked until pot-roast tender, it is set out on the buffet two ways: chopped or pulled. Chopped mutton is pulverized to nothing but flavor: tangy lamb and wood smoke in a bold duet. The pulled version is a textural amusement park – rugged and chunky with a lot of hard outside crust among soft, juicy chunks of interior meat. Apply your own sauce at the table from the pitchers the waitress brings. One is a dark orange emulsion with gentle vinegar-tomato zest; the other is known as “mutton dip,” an unctuous gravy that is used to baste the mutton as it cooks. For those who need heat, Moonlite also supplies bottles of “Very Hot Sauce,” which is brilliantly peppered and will set your lips and tongue aglow.

Beyond meats, we need to mention the impressive deployment of vegetables, including cheesy broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, creamed corn niblets, ham and beans, and butter-drizzled mashed potatoes, plus the Western Kentucky soup/stew of mutton and vegetables known as burgoo … pronounced BUR-goo.

What To Eat

barbecued mutton

Ham Biscuits

Banana Salad


Moonlite Bar-B-Q Recipes


What do you think of Moonlite Bar-B-Q?

One Response to “Moonlite Bar-B-Q”

Joe Cox

October 8th, 2013

Moonlite is an interesting cross-section of Kentucky’s barbecue heritage, with a smothering of superb side dishes. You don’t have to eat the buffet, but if you don’t, you’ll wish you had.

Start with barbecue– pulled pork and shredded pork are joined by brisket and mutton. Honestly, Moonlite’s selection of barbecue is the one part of the menu that takes some getting used to. When I first ate there, I sometimes considered skipping the ‘cue entirely in favor of the sides. But over time, the mutton has really grown on me. It’s a little richer and heavier than pork, but give it some time and it’ll grow on you (probably literally speaking, around the middle, if you’re like me!)

But the sides. Oh the sides. Mashed potatoes, green beans, baked apples, creamed corn, lima beans, etc. etc. etc. I can’t list them all for the simple reason that there are so many, I can’t remember them all. Superb banana pudding is always a highlight.

Moonlite isn’t a place I’d go to often. You really ought to go hungry and eat until you can’t eat any more. But when you’re in the mood, it is a fine, fine meal.


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