July 8, 2006

Savoring the American Dream

To be able to do what one likes and to savour barbecue all day, in word, heaven.

Just before 1 p.m. on a recent weekday, 17 people were standing in line at Bubba's Bar-B-Q in Falls Church waiting for their turn to stand under the "Please Order Here" sign and declare their barbecue wants and desires.

Stuffed potato with pulled pork was the No. 1 special on the board, which listed a couple of other features, including an Atkins diet special: pulled pork and either collard greens or green beans (no bread!).

Bubba was behind the counter. "Hello, young man, how are you. What can I get you?" he asked.

"Pulled pork," Bubba and the customer said at the same time.

"How did I know that?" Bubba said. "I must have ESPN." His customers laughed as if they were hearing the joke for the first time, which the regulars certainly were not. Bubba has a shtick to go with his Tennessee-style barbecue. He patted the counter. "This is my stage," he said. "I feel like Jerry Seinfeld."

Bubba, though, has little in common with Seinfeld. He is Hassan Khalili, 58, and was born in Iran. He served for four years as a lieutenant in the Iranian Air Force, where he first got the nickname Bubba as a term of endearment (the word for "father" is "baba" in Farsi).

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