SUNDERLAND -- At Bub's Bar-B-Q, the gator tails are listed on the menu under "seafood." Hmmm. Deac Tilley, who bought the restaurant three years ago from his dad (the eponymous "Bub"), explains: "I don't have a category for it -- I didn't want to put `reptile' up there."
But "seafood" isn't far off: With a little fresh lemon juice squeezed over the croquettes, gator tail tastes like a close cousin of calamari. Gator is one of the two most exotic dishes at Bub's. (The other is a dessert.)
For the main course, we stick to the basics. The baby back ribs my wife orders are tender, and my daughter's kielbasa sandwich is smoky. My combo plate provides a nicely blackened quarter-chicken alongside pulled pork, which has a subtly sweet sauce Tilley describes as western Carolina/northern Georgia style. You can add some balancing heat from an array of bottled hot sauces on the windowsill near the 12 serve-yourself, all-you-can-eat side dishes: six hot (including collard greens, orange-glazed sweet potatoes, and dirty rice), six cold (among them, cole slaw and dill potato salad), plus soup and bread.
Of the sides, only the collard greens (cooked with sausage) and the baked beans (with pork) include meat, so vegetarians can dine on sides and/or a veggie burger as long as they don't mind being surrounded by brisket, T-bone steak, burgers (beef, bison, ostrich, or turkey), plus shrimp, salmon, and catfish. For dessert there is sweet potato pie and pecan pie, and the menu's other exotic item, fried Twinkies.
We order a Twinkie and are equally amazed by the caloric indulgence and the stylish paper-plate presentation: A ruffle of whipped cream bookends zigzag patterns of chocolate and strawberry sauce. As for the taste, the filling blends with the cake, making a moist treat. I manage two small bites and stop -- my curiosity satisfied, my stomach full.
Bub's has three eating areas (inside, the front porch, and outside); a free, oldies-heavy jukebox; and, in the men's room, a sign on a paper plate offering a "Free Shoe Shine." Below the sign, an electric shoe buffer awaits.
The joke is that few people who come to Bub's wear shoes that can be shined. The lesson is that good humor is as plentiful as the great barbecue.
Bub's Bar-B-Q, Amherst Road (Route 116), Sunderland; 413-548-9630; www.bubsbbq.com. Open Monday to Thursday 4-9 p.m., Friday 4-9:30 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., and Sunday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.