Restaurants like it because it lets them cut food costs. Diners obviously like the lower prices, but also the variety.
There's no shortage of styles as you travel coast-to-coast, and each Philadelphia restaurant seems to do barbecue a little differently.
The latest example is The Twisted Tail on Headhouse Square. British-born owner George Reilly loved his dad's cookouts growing up. When he got a chance to visit the U.S. and sample grilling here, he was hooked. He and executive chef Michael Stevenson are purists.
What they call barbecue takes the cooking form back to its roots, with minimally-seasoned foods being smoked over an oak-charcoal fire. And while you can get the classics like chicken and ribs, the menu also includes less-common choices like rib steak, lamb shoulder, veal shanks, and fresh Jersey bluefish.
Virtually none of the choices are slathered in sauce, although there are sauces on your table if you want some. Stevenson treats each protein to its individual style of seasoning, then the hot, smoky grill imparts unique flavor.
Even the vegetables you can order as an accompaniment are grilled.
Other dishes include a New Orleans-inspired crawfish mac and cheese, crab cakes crusted with potato chips, a smoked tomato soup and an array of shellfish, from an individual half-dozen up to a tower that serves the table.
Out front, the bar is stocked with literally dozens of bourbons to complete the all-American theme. Many nights there's live music in the upstairs dining room they call a Memphis-style "juke joint", including a house blues band on Wednesdays which you're welcome to join.
The kitchen stays open until 1:00am nightly, so workers from other dining spots and other late-nighters can grab something substantial before heading home.
The Twisted Tail opens daily for lunch at 11:00am and Sundays for brunch at 10:00am. It's at 509 S. 2nd Street on Headhouse Square, between Lombard and South.For more information or reservations, phone 215-558-2471m, or go to their website The Twisted Tail.