I don’t mind washing dishes, but I’m sure I would have cringed just like Mae Kessner probably did when her husband announced he wanted to serve barbecue in the hometown bar they had just purchased back in 1973. As all good married couples do, the owners of Guy & Mae’s Tavern in Williamsburg compromised. Because Mae didn’t like to wash dishes, Guy agreed to serve his pork ribs wrapped in foil and placed on top of newspaper. The tender ribs –minus any sauce – still are doled out the same way; the secret recipe barbecue sauce is served on the side.
This tasty combination also was a team effort. Through trial and error, Guy perfected a special rub for the ribs he tested on his toughest critics, his trucker friends, while Mae created the tomato-based barbecue sauce. I opened my foil to find hearty ribs topped with two slices of bread. Served plain, the tender, juicy meat that gently pulled from the bone had a hickory-smoked flavor with little heat. I poured some of Mae’s barbecue sauce on top, which added mild spice, and before I knew it I had pigged out on a half slab of the delicious, but a bit messy, ribs.
And so, apparently, have many well-known sports figures, politicians, and actors, including Doc Severinson. The band leader on the long-running The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson plugged Guy & Mae’s on national television and sent 10 orders of Guy’s ribs to Carson when the comedian and talk show host turned 70. The popular spot has been featured in many newspaper and magazine articles, which are framed and hung on the dark paneled walls alongside beer signs and other memorabilia.
Although known for its ribs, the Tavern also serves beef, ham, turkey and polish sausage barbecue sandwiches. I recommend a side of barbecue beans, flavored with Mae’s coveted sauce and other secret spices, which I learned is a favorite of vegetarians dining in this small town establishment about 45 miles southeast of Topeka.Where is your favorite local barbecue joint?
Cecilia Harris is a professional freelance writer from Abilene who enjoys discovering fascinating attractions, events and people that reflect the arts, culture and heritage found in Kansas. She has been a longtime regular contributor to KANSAS! magazine and also has written for such publications as Midwest Living, Sunflower Living, Kansas Heritage and The Greyhound Review to inspire others to explore and appreciate her home state. She also has authored two books, “Historic Homes of Abilene” and “Abilene’s Carousel.”