There ain't no bad BBQ in all of Bama.
It's all good ... some more good, some less good.
A darn shame, though, that one's lifetime is too short for visiting all the BBQ places there are between Huntsville and Mobile.
So I decided to scale it down to a more manageable quest - all the 60+ BBQ places in the counties of Madison, Limestone, Morgan, and Lawrence in Northern Alabama (that is the Hunstville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area).
And that is my Great North Alabama BBQ Quest.
Quest Log No 54 – Whitt’s Barbecue, Decatur, Spring Ave Decatur, Morgan County
Now, there is only one Whitt’s
Barbecue left on my list. And although they are all very similar, they are not
the same. Some have a smoking unit, others have not. Some have (limited)
outside seating, others have not. Some are quite picturesque, others not so
much. But the quality of the BBQ is uniformly the same, and differs only by
Whitt’s Barbecue on Decatur’s Spring Ave has
a very sizeable parking lot in front of the building, with two red metal
benches on it. If you don’t mind to share your meal with some nasty fat black
flies, you can sit down there and eat. Otherwise, park your car at the parking
lot, or drive home and eat it there.
I chose to try out the fresh-air
version, which meant to have one hand constantly hovering over the Styrofoam box
to shush away those flies.
As usual, I had the pork plate,
which comes with slaw, baked beans, and potato salad by default. With a regular
drink, I paid not even nine Dollars, which is a good deal.
The meat was tasty, although not
really in a smoky-kind of way. It also was a bit soggy, but tender and lean. With
the simple vinegar based peppery sauce that comes with the plate, it was quite
The sides were good, too, without
being earth-shatteringly outstanding. The rather neutral tasting potato salad
and the plain tasting beans are comparable to something you could pick up in a
super market. The slaw came with a quite sour vinegar dressing and was the best
of the three sides.
I would rank Whitt’s Barbecue as
plainly in the middle of the BBQ-road – nothing special here, but good quality Q
at a very reasonable price. Or, as I already said before – a better tasting and
healthier alternative to your typical burger joint.
During my occasional travels, I
try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I
just really, really like that stuff ...
So, once in a while one or another of the national fast food chains
decides to spice up their menu with a BBQ-themed item. It should go without
saying that those ventures cannot be compared to our local BBQ – they are
But as an alternative to the regular menu items, it might work.
The latest foray into the BBQ arena comes from Quiznos – they put a so
called “Southern” and a Spicy BBQ sub on the menu lately.
I tried them both, and they are quite tasty – for a sub. The Southern
comes with pulled pork, coleslaw, and BBQ sauce. The Spicy comes on jalapeno
cheddar bread with pulled pork, bacon, cheddar, cilantro-jalapeno slaw, and BBQ
Theoretically. Actually, the only difference between the two subs I had
was the bread – plain white bread for the Southern, the jalapeno bread for the
Spicy. Everything else was the same – pulled pork, ordinary slaw, and BBQ
For a BBQ-themed fast food sub, it was not bad at all. For a BBQ
sandwich, it was sub-par. The slaw was rather neutral tasting, the BBQ sauce
was your typical sweet’n’sour supermarket variety, and the pork was cooked, not
smoked. The jalapeno bread gave the Spicy just enough spiciness to make it
interesting. Otherwise, those two subs had no distinctive BBQ flavor, other
than through the somewhat overbearing sauce. But that is to be expected – what
does Quiznos, with their over 4000 shops across the USA, know about Q? For them, it’s a
piece of pork with some generic BBQ sauce. For most of their customers outside
the BBQ belt, this should be good enough. For us here in North
Bama, well, we know better.
Quest Log No 53 – Ted’s BBQ Five Points Huntsville, Madison County
Ted is spreading his wings and
going places. While the original Ted’s location on University Drive in
Huntsville is a small, take-out-only hole-in-the-wall affair, the new posh
Ted’s in the hip Five Points area has ample seating space, booths and a
bar-like area, neon lights, flat screen TV, a Ray Charles poster on the wall,
and soul and blues music coming out of the loudspeakers. Quite fancy for a BBQ
joint, like a Redneck in a tux.
But do they serve food that an
urban redneck like me would like? I mean, real, righteous, rapacious, rousing
Q? Well …
I had my usual pork plate, which
came with two sides – potato salad and cole slaw in my case, and a cornbread
muffin that comes with it by default.
After visits to more than fifty BBQ
restaurants in Northern Alabama and more than
thirty more outside of this region, I think that I have a pretty good idea how
BBQ pork should be done. Well …
The pork had an acceptable, but
certainly not outstanding BBQ flavor. But it was a little chewy and definitely too
dry. Without a good deal of lubricant, I had problems swallowing it down. They
have two choices of lubricant there, a mild and a spicy sauce, both of the
thick red variety, and both with the proud label “home made” on it. The mild
sauce tasted kind of bitter (do I hear “celery” out of the audience?) and
otherwise not like something I would voluntarily put on my pork, other than for
lubrication purposes. The spicy sauce was not especially hot, but with a nice
zesty kick and a hint of sweetness. So I chose that to drench the pork in –
might have also made it a bit more tender when soaked for a few minutes.
So, the pork was merely tolerable
with lots of spicy sauce on it. The cole slaw, on the other hand, was quite
horrible. I will never understand the fascination some people have with celery
– I can’t stand this vegetable, especially not in a cole slaw with a somewhat
sweet vinaigrette. In stark contrast to that, the potato salad was a pure
delight. Made with red potatoes, and a mustard-mayonnaise dressing, it had a
very tasty sour flavor, just as I like it. I just hope it is home made, too,
and does not come out of a can. Well, if it does, then can I have the address
were to buy it?
The cornbread muffin, however, was
clearly home made. It came with pieces of corn and jalapenos baked in it, which
gave the natural sweetness of the cornbread a spicy counter balance. I am not a
great fan of this kind of “fusion” food, especially not when it comes to BBQ. Just
give me plain cornbread, and leave the fancy stuff out. I am a simple guy, with
a simple taste, and do not need all that fru-fru stuff.
And for about twelve bucks with a
drink, the amount of food was not that big. And since the quality was also not
something to write home about (Mom, don’t read this here …), this urban redneck
will go to different places when the BBQ cravings come. Places with grime on
the floor, stuffed animal heads on the walls, dead flies on the window sills,
and Q that has no fru-fru, but the four R’s.