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 64 – O Taste and See BBQ Madison, Madison County
To name a mobile BBQ stand after a
Bible verse (Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good”) is probably
one of those things you have to expect here in the Bible belt. But that kind of
commits you to serve a most righteous BBQ, too. Well, their motto “Experience
Real Smoke Taste” is certainly a step in the right direction. Actually, if they
would add the word “Strong” after “Real”, that statement would be the absolute
truth. I never had any BBQ were there was such an intense and prominent smoke
flavor in the meat. Not that this is a bad thing, not at all. But it makes you
think – either the guys have found the holy grail of BBQ and developed a
smoking process that is much superior over everything else, or … well, they
found other means to infuse their meat with that kind of overwhelming smoke
aroma. The pulled pork I had also tasted as if mixed with some BBQ sauce. All
in all very flavorful, and very, very smoky. The meat was succulent, although
with some big blotches of fat in it. But those were easy to spot and I could
remove them right away. The pork plate I had came with two sauces, a mild one
and a spicy one that was more like a more sour version of the former, instead
of real hot. The thick red mild sauce was a very nicely balanced sweet’n’sour affair
with a nice round aroma, and it was so good that I scooped the rest up with the
slice of toast that came with the meal.
Also, the potato salad and the cole
slaw I choose as the two sides were top notch. The potato salad had a very nice
mustardy tang to it, and the slaw came with sour crème dressing and with just
the right amount of vinegar and salt and pepper so that the cabbage aroma was
still noticeable. The whole meal, with a can of soda, was not really cheap – I
paid about eleven bucks for it. And although the portion size was not that big,
the quality of the food kind of justified the price. My wife had the brisket
plate with BBQ beans and green beans, and she had quite the same experience –
the brisket had a lot of fat on it on the outside, which was easily removed,
the taste of the meat was very smoky and very flavorful, it was succulent, and
the sides were top notch.
The stand is really mobile, setting
up at the East Madison Shopping Center
on Hughes Road
from Tuesday through Thursday, at Jordan
Lane in front of Trees n Trends on Friday, and at
the Corner of Winchester Road & Naugher in the Sunoco Parking Lot on
Saturdays. That is certainly a lot of work for the really nice folks who own
this business, and I hope they can establish a good customer base and make a
good living with that nomadic life style. But they seem to love what they are
doing, and it shows in their quality food. It is righteous BBQ, after all.
Quest Log No 63 – Gin House Barbecue Elkmont, Limestone
Just call me Ahab from now on.
Captain Ahab. I finally hunted down the white whale, which I thought would
elude me forever. Well, actually the good Captain in the book died while
fighting with the whale, a fate that I fortunately could avoid. But for over
two years I thought that the Ole Gin House BBQ in Elkmont would be the one that
I’ve been there three times before
in 2011. The first time was on a Monday in April, but the restaurant was closed
- no service on Mondays. At the next try, in July, they were on summer break.
And then, in October, they were closed for good.
But a couple of days ago, I
stumbled across a facebook-site with their name on it that had very current
entries of specials and so on. Needless to say, I went there at the first
From the locals, I had heard
stories about this place, which was formerly run by an elderly lady with pink
hair, who had stuffed the restaurant with all kinds of quirky memorabilia and
interesting decorating pieces. But together with dropping the “Ole” from the
name, the new owners also cleaned up the joint and it is now a fairly bland and
unremarkable country eatery. There are two rooms - one fairly darkly lit big
one and another to the side, which receives some natural light through windows.
Other than an American flag on a pole in one of the corners, there is no
decoration worth talking about. There is a small buffet-like counter in the
entrance hall where for $5.99 a meal is assembled to your specifications. The
choices are the usual southern staples, like fried okra, mashed potatoes, fried
chicken, and steamed corn. But you also can order from the menu, which has the
typical BBQ-stuff on it. Not surprisingly, I opted for a large pork plate with
potato salad and cole slaw.
The pork came in large chunks that
were lean and hat some bark on it. Unfortunately, the meat was not very tender
and it had a very funky sour vinegary taste, and no smoke flavor at all. My
guess is that it was either prepared in a slow cooker or by using some very
strange wood-less smoking process. The BBQ sauce it came with did also nothing
to save the taste – it was a thick red puree, which also had the flavor of
pureed tomatoes with a little salt and pepper. Strange. Don’t get me wrong, it
was not too bad, and certainly perfectly edible, but also most definitely not
your typical country BBQ.
The potato salad on the other hand
was very tasty – a concoction with eggs and mayonnaise, not too sour, not too
tart, not too sweet. The cole slaw however was nothing special, just some
shredded cabbage in a sour crème based sauce that could have used much more
salt and pepper than was there.
Altogether, I paid close to ten
bucks for the plate and a soft drink. Needless to say, that I had better BBQ
for half the price.
But at least there was one valuable
lesson that I learned today: Next time I encounter a white whale, I will just
let the beast go its merry way, and will let bygones be bygones.