HOME > Chowhound > Central South >


Bham area - Let's talk barbecue

Low and slow barbecue is a subject near and dear to my heart, arteries, etc. When I lived in Georgia then Boston and now Birmingham, I always tried to find the best 'cue in the area (Athens does not have much, Boston surprisingly has some good options, and Birmingham is hit or miss so far). I also owned an offset smoker for years and years and would regularly smoke anywhere from 2 to 8 racks or slabs - in Georgia they tend to refer to them as slabs rather than racks - (spareribs, don't get me started on baby backs), a shoulder or 2, atomic buffalo ..., wings, etc. Still, barbecue to me mostly means trimmed pork spare ribs (St. Louis or otherwise) or whole or partial (butt) shoulder, pulled and sauced NC-style (whether from whole hog or shoulder, but I only smoked 2 whole hogs - actually 1/2 hogs in my life) rather than chopped. While I love beef ribs and brisket, I never made them personally and while smoked poultry can be delicious, I just can't get around to calling it barbecue. Personal opinions on barbecue styles can get heated, at home, in restaurants, or even on the barbecue circuit. With all that said, these are the places I have tried in town and my thoughts, in order of current preference:

Jim and Nicks (Five Points) - 1 visit (last night). The pulled pork was more chopped but it was big and meaty with some of the fat left, almost like I make mind except not enough bark mixed back in. They also sauced it was a slightly-sweetish sauce which is far from my minimalist preference of cider vinegar and peppers, plus a dab of red sauce. Next time I will order without sauce. I do, however, like that darker, somewhat-smoky habenero sauce. The ribs (I counted over a 1/2 rack on the $18 rib and pulled combo) looked perfect. They were not sauced, had a nice dark bark, and a great smoke ring when I ripped the first one apart and they had the right resistance when pulling/chewing the meat off the bones. Unfortunately, they didn't use much of a rub and the meat tasted a little bland. When I added a little of the hot sauce, they were fine. Sides were ok - collards were a little too chopped for me (frozen?) but included some big hunks of pork. "Hand cut fries" were not likely hand cut anywhere near the premises but they were fine. The two complimentary cheese biscuits were a cross between sweet cornbread and an odd biscuit but they were good in that somewhat greasy, Red Lobster cheese biscuit type of way.

Full Moon (Southside) - 1 visit. I only had the chopped there on a sandwich and it came pre-sauced with a kind of sweet sauce. Hmmm, small pattern here. Fie on all of you pre-saucing establishments! It was fine but I would not go out of my way for it. Cannot recall sides.

Miss Myrna's (Cahaba Heights) - 1 visiit. I had the chopped or was it kind of pulled a while back. I do not think it was sauced, which is good, because they focus on the white sauce which was ok but I would not have liked my porky goodness to come with sauce from the beginning. Best chopped/pulled after Jim and Nick's - it might even be better but it was a little dry when I ordered some before closing. Also had the chicken which was fine but not too memorable. Sides were canned and lame.

Dreamland (Birmingham) - 3 visits. The ribs are pretty good considering that they do not appear to be slow-smoked as much as fire grilled (direct heat) for a longer time (little smoke ring). While I certainly do not fall in the "fall off the bone" concept which is a complete fallacy for proper ribs, I also don't need to lose a tooth trying to gnaw the meat off the bone. The ribs at DL in Bham have more pull than I prefer. Still, I like them ok. Their sauces and sides seem an after thought. I forgot how the pulled/chopped even tasted the one time I tried it.

Golden Rule (Lakeview) – 3 visiits. From a prior review of mine: “Golden Rule is mostly a bad joke. Their ribs, except for the ones with that really spicy rub, are bland. The ones with the rub have 6 lbs of rub so you can really only taste the rub. The chopped pork was bland and covered with a lame sauce. The sausage? Come on supermarket kielbasa thrown on a grill is your smoked sausage?” Good beans though … With that said, I hear other locations are better.

Demtris (Homewood) - 1 and only 1 visit. Fool me once, shame on you ...

Still need to get to Big Bob Gibson’s …

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Jim & Nick's addendum: Collards may be real, just chopped a little more than my norm, ribs taste surprisingly good on reheating (I usually do not do 'cue leftovers), and I could drink the habanero sauce.

    1. Growing up on the western side of the county, I can certainly recommend Bob Sykes in Bessemer. I'm an outside chopped fan (gotta love "the brown"), but the inside pulled has wonderful flavor as well. They use a tomato-based vinegar sauce w/pepper. A very minute sweetness that is almost undetectable (it simply enhanced the flavor IMO). It's not a fancy place by any means. But I consider it one of the very best in town.

      Full moon - good barbeque, but I LOVE the chow-chow slaw they put on top. I love truly spicy stuff. It's not traditional bbq style, but it works for me.

      Dreamland. I'm not a rib person, but theirs is okay. The bbq pork is good as well. I really like their sauce though - it's heavy on the pepper.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sheilal

        Full Moon~ love the bbq and their beans. My husband loves the Chow-Chow and I like their sauce. I like spicy sauce.

        Dreamland~ I'm not a huge ribs fan, but theirs are my favorite. Husband loves them. I like their smoked sausage and their sauce. It's so good. As far as the sides go, their banana pudding is fantastic. The rest is ok, but IMO sides aren't why you go to a bbq joint anyway.

      2. Good writeup. Just by way of clarification:

        It's Miss Myra's (not Myrna). And the white sauce is just for the chicken.

        1. Full Moon is my pick for sauce and meat.

          Golden Rule's sauce is too sweet for my tastes, and the last time I had it there was too much cinnamon.

          The only good thing about Dreamland is their sauce. Meat is not good. I also don't buy into the quick cooking of ribs school of thought, either. When I want ribs, I cook them at home. I think mine are better than any in town.

          Tin Roof used to be good, but I haven't been in years. And I used to like MIss Myra's a lot, but due to several bad health ratings, I won't be back.

          1. DL ribs are not the best, BUT the chopped pork sandwich, imo, is the best one in Birmingham. There's enough bark in there to flavor things, a bit of fat, and the meat is--yes--slow-smoked and luscious. Golden Rule and Full Moon ain't got nothin' on the Dreamland sandwich! And the banana pudding is only rivaled by my Grandma Mary's, and that's really saying something.

            I think Demetri's tastes like a glorified cafeteria sandwich, but their fries are great!

            1 Reply
            1. re: kbrandon7

              Another vote for Full Moon. Ask for your meat sliced, inside and out, no sauce. They'll do it the way you like it, but you have to ask. Otherwise you get pork mush, which I hate. The location makes all the difference at this small chain. Avoid anything over the mountain and stick to downtown or Valley Avenue. Beans are knockout side item. Fries are also good but not to go. They steam. Eat them in house with BBQ sauce for dipping.

            2. Starving and with NCAA bball radio reception weak on my way to Atlanta, I stopped in Oxford at Golden Rule. I ordered the combo with the sandwich plus two ribs. The prep at that location blows away the Lakeview location. Excellent chopped pork sandwich, with some bark, plus two deliciously meaty and smokey ribs. I wish they would trade cooks. My meal was much better than my Bulldogs were that day.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Dax

                Someone posted a tip on chowhound that Golden Rule would pull instead of chop if they weren't busy. Recently I had the occasion to ask on during a slow lunch day and aside from a little guff, they complied with no hesitation. Excellent sandwich of large pieces of pulled meat, hot sauce on side as requested. Now if they would only improve their fries.

                Similarly, had a Jim and Nicks pulled (again, more chopped) Saturday for lunch. I requested no sauce so I could add some of their habanero sauce which is the bees knees. Fries better than other places.

                Anyone tried the "BBQ" place on 5th and about 32nd or so? TJ's or something like that? It always has lots of cars in the lot when I pass it during the day.

                1. re: Dax

                  It is indeed called TJ's (5th Avenue South and 36th Street). I had lunch there last Friday for the first time. I was not very impressed.

                  I had the large pork sandwich (sliced) with fries. The sandwich had a lot of meat on it, but it was not terribly flavorful. The sauce was pretty good--not too sweet. The fries were frozen and had way too much salt on them. I am in no hurry to go back.

                  In that neighborhood I prefer Carlile's, which is about a block away on 6th. However, I know a lot of folks who are not wild about it. I have had other folks tell me that the cheeseburger at Carlile's is excellent, but I have never had it. The fries there are handcut (or were the last time I was there about two years ago), but tend to be a tad on the greasy side.

                  1. re: pinotboy

                    I noticed Carlile's a while back as well but didn't go inside. Sounds like both are a pass considering the other options in town.

                    1. re: Dax

                      I live in the area, and my wife and I have had both TJ's and Carlile's once each, and have not been back...both were somewhere between OK and fair IMO. I think passing is a wise move.

                1. re: Dax

                  Wondering what the consensus is on Moe's on Rocky Ridge. I've really enjoyed their pork and smoked chicken sandwiches. Sauces are good as well, though I usually add more spice. And their sides are always a highlight for me. Collards, creamed corn, mac and cheese, Brunswick stew, etc. One day last summer I stopped by pretty early in the day and spoke with someone in the kitchen while I was waiting on my order. They'd already been through 60 pounds of fried green tomatoes that morning. And they weren't the frozen kind. I could see bowls and bowls of freshly cut tomatoes waiting for their hot grease bath. Mmmmm. Hope summer will hurry.

                  1. re: eatyourveggies1

                    I've heard about this place a couple of times recently, I hope to get over there to try it soon.

                    The place has an interesting history - owners of the chain (yes, it's a chain, and based in Colorado at that) were from Tuscaloosa and had a restaurant there that closed I think in the 80s. They moved to Vail, and started selling it out there, eventually getting successful enough to start a chain and they ended up back here. Didn't they just open some other locations in town?

                    Weird - Jim N Nicks is now in a couple of western states (Colorado and Arizona at least, for sure), and chains based out there that started here are coming back here.

                    1. re: eatyourveggies1

                      Never tried it, but looks like Moe's is coming to Lakeview. LOH was pretty hit or miss anyway, aside from oysters. Can two barbecue joints compete across the street from each other?

                      From the Birmingham Weekly:

                      The Lakeview Oyster House, located at 731 29th St. South, will close its doors on Feb. 14. Owner Kevin Witherington plans to open another location of Moe’s Original Bar-B-Q in its place. Witherington and his brother own the Moe’s in Vestavia Hills and the lunch spot on Third Avenue North.

                      1. re: Dax

                        We have been to LOH once, the food was fine, but with all the other options in the Ham we have not been back.

                        As far as having 2 BBQ places in Lakeview...well I NEVER go to GoldenPooh so I would imagine they should be the one's concerned. I think the burgers at GoldenRule are good, but I do not like the chopped to teeny tiny pork and think they have among the worst sauce in Bham!

                        1. re: birminghamvisitor

                          Agree on GR's sauce being a major weak point (and again, you can get the pork pulled if they're not busy) but I'd rather go to Jim and Nick's.

                          Moe's opened today (or yesterday) so I stopped in there for lunch. There is not a lot of room inside when it's cold out and the deck isn't suitable for eating. Their internet connection was down, thus the credit card machine wasn't available. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich, unsauced, with bac and cheese and collards plus 2 ribs (you can add ribs for $1 each ... insert Chris Rock I'm Gonna Get You Sucka sequence here). My sandwich arrived unsauced, but so did my co-worker's who ordered before me and didn't request no sauce. Points for not pre-saucing; I'm not anti-sauce by any means although I tend to prefer NC thick pulled pork lightly dressed with just vinegar and red pepper. Sauce was a bit bland. They put a lot of meat in that sandwich, although it's nearly shredded to the point it looked like they piled it on with an ice cream scoop. The collards were rough cut and delicious and the mac and cheese was your typical baked mac and fine/good. The ribs had a decent bark and nice bit of smoke but they were sauced (I forgot to ask) and well a little too moist and juicy? That's more of a personal preference for dry-rubbed ribs without sauce. All in all, better than Golden Rule but not necessarily better than Jim and Nicks. I hear they have great smoked wings and I'll be back for those - I used to always smoke my own wings and love the taste.

                      2. re: eatyourveggies1

                        Went to Moe's Original BBQ in Vestavia tonight. NOT GOOD. The "smoked wings" were covered in a sticky hot sauce. Couldn't taste the smoke. Really disappointed. Also, they were quite chewy. I've smoked wings in my Weber Smokey Mountain in the past and they were way better. Tender, smokey. Not like this disaster. The beer selection was pitiful, only Bud products. I let the young lady behind the counter talk me into a "Natty Lite". Yuk. This stuff must be the effluent they capture at the factory when they wash down the beer vats every night. My wife had the pulled pork. Very little bark (good for her, bad for me) and WAY over-vinegared. The bottom of the bun was absolutely soaked in vinegar. Why can't BBQ joints just serve smoked meat and let the customer sauce/season it as they like? The beans and okra, collards, potato salad, baked beans, and cornbread were all actually good. No complaints there. Anyway, if your taste in BBQ is anything like mine, this is a place to avoid. And IMHO, their wings are really bad, at least as prepared for me.

                    2. Dax, the most tender BBQ in Birmingham can be found on Saturdays and Sundays at various pits that are parked on/around 3rd Ave West near Fair Park and the Five Points West shopping center. They aren't always in the same location, so it might take a few minutes to locate them.

                      1. I don't see how there can be this many posts without someone mentioning Tin Roof on Valleydale, just east of I-65 (right behind the Popeye's). We've eaten there several times, having had ribs, chicken and pulled pork (you can get it either pulled or chopped)and always thought the food to be excellent, the portions generous and the prices quite reasonable. My wife and I have eaten BBQ all over the southeast, and we have no hesitation in nominating Tin Roof as one of the best in town.

                        They offer a variety of sauces too, including a NC-style, which is what I have always preferred, and a SC-style that was the first I ever tried that made me understand why some people swear by it. (Every time I had tried SC-style sauce previously, it was just way too mustardy for my taste, but this was more restrained on the mustard and had a nice spiciness to it as well.) They also make a quite decent Brunswick stew, available by the cup or bowl. You can find the menu at:


                        Among the side choices, they offer a baked sweet potato -- something we really enjoy once and awhile as a change from the standard baked beans, fries and/or cole slaw (and they offer both creamy and vinegar cole slaws.) The green beans are very good too, but we couldn't recommend the deep-fried corn on the cob. They also have a decent selection of bottled beer and Newcastle ale on tap. I'm sure they serve dessert as well, but we never made it that far -- In fact, we usually end up taking something home.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: iko.iko

                          I work near Tin Roof, and have had it probably 5 times...I like it just fine, but prefer Jim N NIcks (I am a pulled pork kinda man...though I really love the ribs at Dreamland!) and like Full Moon about as much as Tin Roof. Just my 2c.

                        2. The sad fact of the matter is this: Most Birmingham area BBQ.... STINKS. That's painful to say. If they do manage to do one thing right, they typically screw up everything else. "The sauce is great but the meat is bland", "The BBQ is bad but the sides are good", etc, etc. I know there are several exceptions to this sweeping generalization...I don't know.... I think it's the classic problem of franchising diluting quality and serving a business lunch crowd. (On a side note: Why are most BBQ joints in this town owned by Greeks?)

                          I grew up all over the state of Alabama, usually in The Sticks. I've eaten more BBQ than a hawg eats slop and I can tell you the best BBQ places typically are opened and closed inside of 5 years. They are usually run by people who are not professional cooks and have no experience in restaurant management, they just happen to make really good BBQ. Sometimes its vinegar, sometimes its tomato, its pulled, chopped, diced, whatever.. They are a dime-a-dozen all over this state, and there cooking skills usually lack professional quick-service formulas. They suffer because of that in the long-run, but while the doors are open, the food is made with Love. I'm no class warrior but we ARE talking about BBQ. It's poor food by design.

                          Birmingham doesn't have that. Birmingham has old names in BBQ that have been around for years and have built a formula off that name by which they can franchise and serve suits a "power lunch". Birmingham has many excellent dining establishments, but I've learned to be wary of the BBQ situation here. If you're looking for truly GREAT BBQ, hop in the car and drive at least 30 miles in any direction.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: SkunkApe

                            I like the Slick Lizard Smoke house in Jasper, AL just west of BHam. Nice smoky pork ad ribs OK sauce and real atmosphere. Also the best name...

                            1. re: SkunkApe

                              I could not agree more!!! I moved here from Vietnam(originally from Louisiana) and all I heard about was the BBQ and well it was AWFUL!!!!!!! All they do is load giant portions on a plate and soak it in tomato based weak sauce and call it BBQ. For real BBQ you have to go to MS and stop at any of the shacks in the Delta. I would suggest anyone who loves BBQ to make it themselves and stay away from the restaurants in BHAM!!

                              1. re: herve mons

                                Naah herve mons...there is some pretty good Q in the Ham...but makin it at home in a proper smoker for a few hours is the way to go!!! I dont have the smoker so I go to the restraunts for my fix. I enjoy Jim and Nicks pulled pork with the habenro sauce...spicy and yummy, and the company salad is the BOMB!!...Mrs Myras does some mean smoked chicken!...Dream Land sauce is great and the ribs are top notch in my opionon!!! They also do some mean home made smoked sausage too!

                                Have you tried these places herve mons? No offence, but I think there is some dang good Q in the Ham, and wanted to put in by 2c.

                                1. re: herve mons

                                  While I only get to travel to Birmingham a few times a year, I tend to agree with herve mons. The BBQ- at least the places I have tried, has pretty much always been substandard.

                                  The strange thing is, Birmingham *seems* like it would be a great BBQ town- there are a lot of places to get it compared to similar sized cities, and I kind of wonder if at some point in time they were known nationwide for their BBQ. I hear Birmingham and BBQ mentioned on several old blues tunes...

                                  Anyway, they do have a lot of places, and I haven't made a dent in trying all of them, so I'm sure not going to write Birmingham off my list just yet. I'm positive that there is somewhere with really, really great BBQ- I just haven't found it!

                              2. My wife and I went to Demetris today for lunch...guess I just had to try it for myself!!! And well it was ok...actually the sides were pretty good...the green beans were great, the potoato salad was greek just like Zoe's and not quite as good though...the onion rings were spectacular, and the beans were good too...we shared double chopped -ugh!- portion of pork and a small order (4) ribs...with drinks and tip $34, so not cheap!!! The sauce was pretty bad! Too sweet, tasted like strangly seasoned sweet dark katsup! But passable when enough hot sauce was added to counter the sweet! The pork was just passable. The ribs were too salty! But fairly tender and tasty otherwise.

                                The Tuesday night Veggie night might be worth a try, but other wise I would not go back to Demetris with the other options in the Ham! But not terrible...I have had way worse, and the sides were pretty solid (aside from the potato salad).

                                Just wanted to share my thoughts on Demetris in Homewood.

                                One good thing was since it was it a nice day! We walked over to soho sweets for desert...tagalong icecream in a brownie bowl..I can hear myself getting fatter LOL!...delicious and a peanut butter cheescake in the fridge for desert tonight after I cook dinner! We have had the cheesecake before and I know it is GREAT!!!

                                1. Noticed this thread started back in early 08 but thought I would mention another option we visited. I lived in BHM back in mid 80's and really enjoyed BBQ there. I left but recently moved back to AL in the HSV area. We drive down to BHM to shop occassionally and a few weeks ago we ate at Costa's which was my favorite back in the 80's. They closed their original location but we found them in Trussville area (Trussville Crossings). The ribs were stil lvery good as were the sides. The new place also has a sports bar. The owner said they had planned to close the original location as they couldn't expand it. Needless to say we miss the original, but it's really about the BBQ. We'll be back!!

                                  Also, we tried Bob Syke's in Bessemer and it was as good as I remembered as well.

                                  Not BBQ, but we stopped at the Superior on 280 just south of 459 because the outside looked interesting. Turned out to be Mexican and outstanding Mexican at that!! Not bad for a change of pace!!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: RetiredPowerGuy

                                    Superior Grill has excellent food. Trying to remember that steak dish i used to get a lunch there as that is the only time I can afford to eat there is the lunch menu, but it was fantastic. Love their chips and salsa and just about anything I have ever had there....no BBQ though LOL


                                    Superior Grill
                                    5435 Government St, Baton Rouge, LA 70806

                                  2. Moe's is the only bbq I really enjoy in Birmingham. I'm from NC, so I prefer sauce with more vinegar. The banana pudding is especially good - my only complaint (minor) is that they often sell out of some of the sides early.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: tarheelinbama

                                      Tin Roof was our fav for years. It started going downhill IMO about 4 years ago and we have only been back a few times since. It had not improved at our last visit.

                                      We now get bbq at the Moe's on Rocky Ridge. Have not tried their other locations. Their bbq is awesome. I love the sweet potato sides and fried green tomatoes are ok. Have not tried any others. My husband adores the collard greens.

                                      1. re: kelkins

                                        Might I suggest that you Chowhounders try:

                                        Rib It Up.

                                        It's on the west side of I-65 (adjacent to the interstate)on 1st Avenue N.

                                        Then'll we'll talk about Bham BBQ being "substandard"!

                                        1. re: meat4dinner

                                          Is this related to the Rib It Up that used to be down 280 in Brook Highland about 10 years ago? If so, it would be awesome. I used to love that place. Never could figure out why it closed. Was always packed. I ate there the night before my twins were born and I swear, I must have eaten 20 ribs. LOL

                                          1. re: meat4dinner

                                            What, specifically, do you suggest there? Surely it's not the rib tips which I ordered for lunch today along with mac and cheese and collards? Dear Lord above, why must you allow these places to glop on so much sauce? Surely that is sacrilege to your 11th commandment thou shall not (over)sauce barbecue? The meat was not bad per se, but completely bland underneath the sticky sweet (but at least still viscous) sauce. The collards … maybe I just prefer collards roughly chopped as these were chopped so finely that they reminded me of the frozen Sysco blocks that not even peppered vinegar could save them. The mac and cheese … now every icnarnation of mac and cheese, from the frou frou to the typical baked mac and cheese with egg and cheddar and all the way down to the to the lowly Kraft in a box all hold places near and dear to my heart(burn). The version I ate at Rib It Up holds a distant 800th place to the ones I love. It wasn’t horrible by any means but to say it was the highlight of the meal gives it too much justice considering the other items. Please tell me the regular ribs or (I assume chopped or pulled) pork is better?

                                        2. re: tarheelinbama

                                          I agree, Moe's is the best for sure. The fact that they run out is a sign of its strength IMHO.

                                          1. Try Rib It Up in downtown Birmingham

                                            1. Larry's Fish Pot and Bar-b-que In Bessemer...Good Ole Ghetto Bar-b-que!

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: jmearon

                                                I found a new place (open for a few weeks or so) over the weekend serving up some good 'cue: Saw's BBQ. It is located in the former location of Broadway BBQ in Homewood at the intersection of Oxmoor Road and Broadway.

                                                I had a pulled pork (they don't do sliced or chopped) sandwich that was very good. The meat was extremely moist and not overcooked the way a lot of places have a tendency to do. I used the sauce that was in a squirt bottle on the table that was a combination of a little sweet/spicy. Good stuff.

                                                1. re: pinotboy

                                                  I suspect that that's the same Saw that I purchased my Stump's smoker from. He's a good guy- must've quit his day job as a chef in the Southern Living test kitchen.

                                                  1. re: ted

                                                    That is him. Here is the website: http://www.sawsbbq.com/

                                                    Click on the link to "Saw's Sauce" and then click on "Saw's Story."

                                                  2. re: pinotboy

                                                    WOW! That's all I have to say. This is the best 'cue in town. I went for lunch today and at 11:30 the place was packed. The pulled pork was incredibly moist with a good mix of large center and outside pieces. The sandwich came lightly sauced with a vinegary, slightly spicy sauce and three pickles. There was another, thicker sauce on the table that reminded me of Dreamland's. My dining companion got the smoked chicken plate, which came with half of a chicken covered in creamy, white, Alabama-style chicken sauce. It was also quite moist and had a pronounced smoky flavor. The sides were all above average as well. Only downside: you'll smell like a smoked pig when you leave (although I guess this isn't necessarily a bad thing).

                                                    1. re: bryantuga

                                                      Saw's is the jam.

                                                      I finally made it there today for the pulled pork plate plus collards and baked beans, a drink and one rib. Total was around $13 which is a little spendy for lunch but mostly well worth the trip over to that section of Edgewood.

                                                      First, the $8.75 plate of pulled pork is about the best I have had outside of my own or friends' smokers. The order had to be at least 1/2 lb of pulled. I use the term pulled loosely because it's pulled like a whole hog is pulled in giant hunks including bark, fat, etc. I asked for the order not to be sauced (and they didn't). Very evident smoke ring and taste. While at some places the 'cue gets dried out after smoking, this was not the case as it was quite moist (even unsauced) and complimented by the fat and bark. Hog heaven on a plate. I hate the term "hands down (the best)" but this is my new favorite pulled pork 'cue joint.

                                                      Second, the sauce was a vinegar-based sauced that was too sweet for me. The vinegar tasted more like white than cider but that could have been because the sweetness overshadowed the cider. This is primarily a personal preference in that I prefer no sugar/sweetner in my pulled sauces; I prefer cider vinegar and red and black pepper only, watered down a little with some other innocuous additive. With that said, if they came up with a sweet and spicy sauce, I'd probably love it (ie habanero). I just didn’t use it and it wasn’t necessary.

                                                      Ideally, if I’m not making my own (i.e. for a tailgate), takeout pulled pork from Saw’s tossed in my sauce would be pure bliss.

                                                      Third, the sides. I thought the collards, while fresh and rough-cut, were too sweet not even to be saved by the vinegar in peppers. Perhaps this was because they incorporated the Saw’s sauce. The beans were better than the collards and included plenty of much-more-thinly pulled pork but they were still a little bland. I just prefer my baked beans even though I used navy beans cooked low and slow for hours with ham hocks.

                                                      Fourth, the rib. One (St. Louis) rib is never a good measure of the potential splendor of a full, unsauced and properly rubbed rack. However, my gut was about to spill out of my pants at that point so one rib had to suffice. The rib was just ok, but that may be because a) small sample size, b) I forgot to order it unsauced, and c) I ate it last after it had been sitting in the sauce for 10 minutes. The pull of the meat was a little too “fall off the bone” (danger will robinson) for me as I like a little tug and the actual meat was a little bland. They definitely had a mild rub on there, personally I just prefer more kick to my rub and a darker bark. Still, for about $19/rack, I would order a rack (sans-sauce) for tailgating.

                                                      For napkins, they had rolls of the blue shop (paper) towels. This is a great idea as I use them at home for everything. You don’t end up using tons of napkins and they are much stronger than paper towels (and don’t stick to your hands like sauced napkins).

                                                      1. re: Dax

                                                        Ahh, thank you Dax! At least once a year I use B'ham as a stopover for an extended drive and I've been stymied in my search for a BBQ place that is not far off my track that's worth visiting. Saw's sounds like a good addition to the scene and I'll be checking it out when I pass through in two weeks - and reporting back here. Good heads-up info on the sauce, now I know to bring my own (I'm a vinegar and pepper guy myself).

                                                        1. re: Dax

                                                          2nd trip for the pulled sandwich combo with one side (mac) and drink for $8.50 confirmed they have the best pulled pork that I have tried in town, maybe even better than my own attempts. Less bark this time, which is almost my favorite part, but darn good (and large) sandwich. Mac and cheese was a little creamy, which sometimes suggests adding milk to strech the batch, but really that did not seem the case for this sample.

                                                          The sauce in the squeeze bottle tasted more vinegary and less sweet to me. Is the one in the labeled Saws bottle one type (Saw's Sauce) and the one in the unmarked squeeze bottle is the vinegar-based?

                                                  3. I'd like to answer regarding ribs specifially:

                                                    We've tried *so* many rib places in B'ham - had nine of the ten "Best Ribs in Birmingham" according to the B'ham News (http://blog.al.com/bn/2008/08/best_ri...) - all except the place in Woodstock. And Big Daddy's in Warrior got first place, but it wasn't particularly life-altering.

                                                    Expanding the regional boundaries of this conversation for just a sec, the best ribs in the entire state, in my estimation, are at the Pig Stand in Hartselle on Hwy 31.

                                                    In Birmingham, my favorite ribs are at Road Side Bar-B-Que at 7303 1st Ave N (Woodlawn), 833.9616. They have ribs, "nuckles" (sp), chicken, and homemade potato salad, baked beans, and macaroni salad (that I think is shot with a pretty ample supply of zesty Italian dressing).

                                                    I, like many of you, are so tired of Sysco sides. Shame on you, Full Moon downtown! I've gotten over myself and actually ask now whether sides are homemade or brought in. In any case, the answer at Road Side is that everything there is made in-house.

                                                    Back to the ribs: amazing. Just amazing. Best in Birmingham. I put a few pics of the building, and the ribs, on Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deepfrie...

                                                    I love seeing all these other opinions! Will have to try Saw's now.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                                                      I'm a Yankee. Born in Indiana, living in Minnesota. I married a girl from Birmingham and I've got a general reply to all you folks complaining about the BBQ in Birmingham....

                                                      I'm reading Chowhound posts and it looks like Jim & Nick's, Bob Sykes, Roadside, Saw's and Moe's are five places getting generally positive reviews. That's five more than we've got in Minneapolis and Minneapolis is 3-4 times the size of Birmingham. So quit complaining. You're living in the midst of some of the best BBQ in the USA.

                                                      I'm going to be in Birmingham this week. I'm planning to try Rioadside and Saw's and maybe Moe's and maybe Jim & Nick's. And if I can swing it, I'll get over to Nikki's West.

                                                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder


                                                        That is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. Seeing as how BBQ was perfected (and invented?) in the South, I think it is the general consensus of folks on this board that a southern city the size of B'ham should be doing a little better in the 'cue department than it is. That is not to say that you can't get some pretty good pig here; you can. But in relation to, say, Memphis, we are a little behind the curve.

                                                        1. re: pinotboy

                                                          Can you BBQ Apples or Oranges? I'm looking forward to being just a little behind the curve.

                                                          I've never been to Memphis. I've been to and eaten a fair amount of BBQ in KC, Dallas, coastal Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. And in my experience, Birmingham beats them all, hands down. Even KC.

                                                          I recognize the obvious fact that there are many schools of BBQ. From the toothless bone-suckers who value tender above all to the smokey chewy types who lust for something I'd describe as smoked pork jerky.

                                                          1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                            Although I have not been there, if you have the time while you are here, I think that most folks would advise you to make the trek to Northport (just across the river from Tuscaloosa--about 60 miles from B'ham) and check out Archibald's. It is supposed to be some seriously good 'cue.

                                                            1. re: pinotboy

                                                              New Saw's convert here. Moistest pulled pork I have ever eaten. Better than average mac & cheese, good greens. (Moe's has the best greens, Full Moon second, imo.) Really enjoyed the sauce. Can't wait to go back and try the chicken and the white sauce (forgot it last week).

                                                              1. re: SkippyLeBeef

                                                                Me too!! Great spot (Saw's). Been there twice, but I had to have the pork both times, so I too will have to return for chicken. Want to try the banana pudding, but I'm always too full of pork to get dessert! Love their collards and baked beans...large pork chunks in the baked beans, too. Great stuff.

                                                              2. re: pinotboy

                                                                I live in Tuscaloosa and work in Birminham and I have eaten BBQ my whole life in both places. Archibald's in Tuscaloosa/Northport is definitely worth checking out! It's still family-run and -owned and the food, from ribs to chicken to sides, is divine.

                                                                1. re: bamagal5137

                                                                  I've got to give big props to Archibald's in Northport.I used to make a habit of stopping in at Dreamland for my rib fix when in the area.I haven't been back since I got turned on to Archibald's.Great ribs.Maybe my favorite sauce of all time.Give it a try.

                                                        2. re: deepfriedkudzu

                                                          Tried Road Side's ribs today - 3 large spares on the $9 rib plate. I like a little more bark but the ribs have a nice smoke to them (I was told the smoker was out back but could not see it). Sauce on the side as requested and I spiced it up a little once I got home. Beans and potato salad were forgettable. In general, I have not found any ribs that were worth the price or trip and will probably stick to eating my own the 2-3 times per year.

                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                            @Dax: Make enough for all of us and we'll be over to help you eat them.

                                                            1. re: Dax

                                                              With all your countless trips to Archibald's in Northport I'm surprised to hear you say that.

                                                              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                                                I have actually never been to Archibald's. Maybe next time i'm in t-town

                                                          2. I am a northern transplant with ten years of East and West North Carolina BBQ eating experience and I have to say that Dreamland's BBQ really blew me away and supposedly they are more known for their ribs. Ribs were good but not as good as some Ive had in NC (see www.thepit-raleigh.com and ask Bobby Flay, ha ha).

                                                            Last biz trip out to Bham several natives recommended Full Moon so I will be giving that a shot next month.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: gbandu

                                                              Noone has mentioned Sweet Bones- have not heard much good about it- just so-so-anyone been?

                                                              1. re: hlsess

                                                                Been there twice. Was not impressed. The first time we stood in the doorway (and were ignored by the hostess for about 10 minutes, then left. The second time the food was just nothing to write home about. The restaurant was better when it was down at Lee Branch (called Bonedaddy's at that time).

                                                                1. re: curej

                                                                  regarding Sweet Bone's- the ribs were GREAT- very meaty and tender- I got some pulled chicken which was good- others had good food- I love Saw's also!!

                                                                  1. re: hlsess

                                                                    Went to Sweet Bone's tonight. Had the combo of ribs and pulled pork, with collards and okra as my sides. Ice cold Harp. I do love Harp. Tavern at the Summit no longer carries Harp. So much for them. .

                                                                    I let myself get talked into baby back ribs, which I like, but which are easier to dry out than spare ribs. They were a little bit dry tonight. However, they were still pretty darn good. Full of flavor. Meaty would be going to far. If I wanted meaty I guess I should have ordered spare ribs. SBs puts something different in their rib rub....kind of an herbal thing going on there. I could not quite place the flavor, but it's not a common one. But still good. I had a few few shreds of the pulled pork, which was good but not particularly hot. I boxed that up so I would have room for a slice of the peanut butter pie (see below).

                                                                    The collards were awesome (I love collards) and were mined with big chunks of smoky pork. I could have easily made a meal of them. The okra was the usual probably previously frozen type. Why do I always order fried okra??? I just don't know, but I keep doing it. Somebody stop me.

                                                                    The pie was a disappointment. It was cold and hard. I had to chisel at it with my fork. There were a load of roughly chopped peanuts in it. Too many peanuts. I prefer the dense, smooth lushness of the more typical peanut butter pie (my vote is still with Big Bolton's peanut butter pie).

                                                                    Anyway, I'm going to retract my earlier statement if my experience tonight reflects a trend with Sweet Bones. I enjoyed my meal, overall, and will go back.

                                                            2. Dreamland is good. I'd recommend it. And even if you only want BBQ, you should also consider the city's other great restaurants. Frank Stitt's restaurants are great (Highlands, etc.) and he may occasionally have a barbeque themed entree.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: SometimesSouthern

                                                                We had Moe's again this week. It was very good again. I had the pulled pork, cornbread (which was not as good as some times before), sweet potato casserole, friend green tomatoes, and watermelon salad. I really like the watermelon salad. It's easy to replicate at home, too. The food was very good. The sauce seemed better this time - a bit more spice and vinegar than I remembered.

                                                                1. re: kelkins

                                                                  Made my first trip out to Bessemer to try Bob Sykes. It was really quite good. I had spareribs which were very smokey and hit just the right spot between too loose off the bone and too chewy (I usually find Dreamland ribs to be too far on the chewy side). We also tried the chopped pork, which was also moist, smokey and delicious. We got WAY too much food. I had plenty to reheat for a big lunch the next day. I need to return to try some other things at Sykes, and I certainly will. The place was busy, doing a brisk business. Nice to see that. My last trip to Saw's was a bit of a disappointment. The serving size of pulled pork was far less than they served in the past. The chicken that my wife ordered did not taste particularly smoked....I trust this was a onetime glitch, as this place has been great in the past. Finally, we went to Archibald's in Tuscaloosa, but the waitress we got completely forgot about us and we finally left without ordering. Really a shame, since there was another waitress waiting on adjacent tables who seemed to be doing a great job. I just don't believe in sticking around and giving my hard earned dollars to places that pay that little attention to service.

                                                              2. My friend and I have eaten at most of the BBQ places from Montgomery to the TN line. We have only found two that were what I would call good BBQ. One is Green Top in Jasper and our favorite is Tin Top outside of Calera - not to be confused with the garbage they serve at Tin Roof BBQ.
                                                                Moe's is not bad for "smoker" BBQ. There is a big difference in smoker BBQ and pit BBQ.
                                                                Saws in several notches below Moe's IMO. The sides were pretty bad at Saw's. The beans tasted like they came right out of a Van Camps can.
                                                                I have eaten BBQ all over the Southeast and can say Tin Top has the best ribs I have ever eaten and yes I have eaten at most of the BBQ places in Memphis.
                                                                Bottom line - if it is not cooked in a pit it is not real BBQ.
                                                                BTW my favorite back in the day was Old Plantation. The "Buster Special" was to die for. Cracklin cornbread muffin split open with BBQ on top. Next favorite was BBQ from some of the old Black churches in Ensley.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: cjd223

                                                                  We'll just agree to disagree on the "if it is not cooked in a pit it is not real BBQ" theory. And for my money, moe's is a far 2nd behind Saw's. Moe's is pulled too a stringy consistency, which is not a good thing. It's not bad, but it's not great either.

                                                                  1. re: Dax

                                                                    The BBQ at Saw's is not awful. I would put it on par with Golden Rule Irondale. It's just that the sides are not very good. I guess a better way to grade Saw's BBQ is I would not make a special trip from Hoover to eat there. If I am driving by during lunch I might stop for a sandwich - no sides.
                                                                    If you want good pit BBQ go to Tin Top.

                                                                    1. re: cjd223

                                                                      The baked beans at Saw's were pretty weak; the ones are Moe's are definitely better. Most places here seem to use canned beans as a base, which means mushy baked beans. Anyway, the meat at Saw's is pretty good and I go to 'cue places for the meat, not sides although the mac and cheese at Saw's has been good. I've found the meat at Saw's to be much better than the meat at the Golden Rules in Lakeview and Oxford (I have not been to the Irondale location). Unless you beg, those places chop their cue plus their sauce is weak. IMHO, chopped cue cannot hold a candle to large pulled with bark and fat mixed back in. Is the cue at Tin Top pulled?

                                                                      1. re: Dax

                                                                        I finally made it to Saw's after the end of the Alabama-Auburn game on Friday. Overall, I really enjoyed it. They didn't have baked beans on the menu, so no feedback there. But the potato salad, mac & cheese, and turnip greens were all good (greens were super sweet/vinegary/smoky).

                                                                        My wife and I passed a chicken plate and a pulled pork plate back and forth. The chicken was about the best-cooked chicken I've had outside my own house. The white sauce wasn't as vinegary or horseradish-y as I make it, but it had enough vinegar and black pepper to keep it from being a mayo fest. The pork was a little less smoky than I'd prefer but still was very good.

                                                                        My Mom had the ribs, and I liked them the least. They were a little chewier and fattier than I like. Don't know if they hurried cooking them or what, but I go for tender (not falling off the bone) and most of the fat rendered out by slow cooking.

                                                                        I haven't been to Green Top, Tin Top, or Moe's. But I know Saw's is using an ancient pit for part of their cooking. Not sure what they're supplementing capacity with out back.

                                                                        As for cjd223's assertion about open pit vs. smoker, it'd make for a good bet. I'd put money on your inability to tell the difference in a blind taste test. Either can produce excellent BBQ. It's really the skill of the cooker that makes the difference.

                                                                        Saw's has replaced Miss Myra's as my folks' go-to Q joint, mainly on the strength of the non-Sysco sides. It's a cute setting, though I could do without the streaming live Dead soundtrack. And they could use the option of a Sweetwater IPA or La fin du Monde in the cerveza list.

                                                                        1. re: ted

                                                                          I must not be going to Saw's at the right time, because I've never heard the boys. I keep hearing about the Deadzak soundtrack, so that's another great excuse to stop by.

                                                                        2. re: Dax

                                                                          Dax, it is chopped. I don't have a real issue with that as it is pretty coarse. I guess a lot depends on how BBQ is prepared. Example - I like Green Top's sliced BBQ better than the chopped. I know that sounds strange, but it just tastes better.
                                                                          One thing I like about Tin Top is the price. Their large sandwich is pretty cheap plus the amount of BBQ on the bun is amazing. I have been eating their ribs the last several trips.

                                                                          1. re: cjd223

                                                                            A course chop is fine with me, in 2nd place with pulled. One forgettable place in Athens, GA used to cube their butts and that drove me nuts.

                                                                    2. re: cjd223

                                                                      CJD, I've been to Tin Top outside Calera, and they were - no joke - pouring their sauce out of a new-looking Sam's Club-size container of Kraft Barbecue Sauce. They lost me there. Let's say that's just a handy size to pour their own recipe out of. Nobody worth their salt (or their hickory wood) would have a new Kraft bottle within a hundred miles of their joint. Other than that, the barbecue meat itself was okay.

                                                                      I wish I shared the same enthusiasm for Saw's barbecue as some of the others on this board, but can't. The sides are pretty good, though, but you go to a barbecue place for the meat, not the threes.

                                                                      Putting this out there again...best ribs in town are at Roadside Barbecue on 1st Ave N.

                                                                    3. It is usually the case that the original location of a chain of barbecue places is much better than the spin-offs. Some Golden Rule locations, for example, don't even cook the meat on site. The Ironbdale Golden Rule is great though. The original Dreamland on Jug Factory Rd in Tuscaloosa is a lot better than any branch I've tried. Similarly Full Moon. There's more art than science in good barbecue, and you just can't franshise that.

                                                                      We really should have a moment of silence for Ollie's. Great barbecue, outstanding sauce, and the coconut pie was thebest pie on earth.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: dcbbq

                                                                        Which Golden Rule locations do not cook on premises? I saw cook because like dreamland they cook over coals on an inside fire pit/place with direct fire rather than offset/indirect smoke.

                                                                        1. re: Dax

                                                                          The downtown location in the Regions/Harbert Building does not cook on premises. Beyond that, I don't know if there are any others that do not.

                                                                        2. re: dcbbq


                                                                          Purchase Ollie's Barbecue sauce online above


                                                                          Interesting facts about Ollie's history above

                                                                        3. It's about that time again.

                                                                          Any comments on the article here about Alabama 'cue joints? Shame on the person that mentioned Demetri's. And am I the only one that is not a huge Full Moon fan? It's too chopped for me to get the full smokey flavor and mouthfeel.


                                                                          Also, I know we're far from Lockhart, but do any places here do decent fatty brisket. I was watching something last night that got me salivating ...

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Dax

                                                                            Wow has this thread gotten hard to follow. Not even sure where this reply will land.

                                                                            I grew up in Tuscaloosa, and have had Archibald's and Dreamland forever and ever. I think success hasn't been kind to Dreamland, and won't bother with the franchises. Archibalds is still good, and we have it at least once during football season.

                                                                            My favorite in the state is Twix N Tween in Centreville. My mailman is from Centreville and brings me jars of sauce when I run out. Love the pulled pork there, and the pie isn't too bad, either.

                                                                            I used to say that there wasn't any good barbecue in Birmingham, but in a pinch you could get away with Jim N Nicks or Johnny Ray's. Never Demetri's, bleh, but they do have good chili and grilled cheese. And I think Golden Rule's sauce isn't fit for the garbage. Bleh. But that's because I grew up eating Twix N Tween, and really nothing compared.

                                                                            Until Saw's. I love it. The meat reminds me of Twix N Tween. Not the sauce, which I like but don't love, but the meat is so yummy. I bring it home and sauce it with TNT and I'm a happy girl. Plus the owner is a nice guy and that helps.

                                                                            We also like Moe's. It's in the neighborhood, and it's kiddo friendly. I'm not real sure about cornbread (a) served with barbecue and (b) that sweet.

                                                                            Across the street from Avondale park there is a quickmart, and for the past few Saturdays there has been a tent with slabs of ribs for sale. Darn good, even if it's just doctored bottled sauce (not sure about that, just what I suspect). Don't know if it will be around for the rest of t-ball season, but I sure hope so.

                                                                            Golden Rule
                                                                            81 Church St, Birmingham, AL 35213

                                                                            Johnny Ray's
                                                                            1460 Montgomery Hwy, Birmingham, AL 35216

                                                                          2. I have to admit been living in Alabama all my life and close to Birmingham area for going on 35 years. I love good barbeque, but true it is hard to find here. While I like Full Moon B-bque as I like the homemade chow chow that is zingy and spicy onto the sandwich, I also find that you have to try different Golden Rule B-que's as all are not the same. The one in Irondale is usually pretty good, but they have bad days too. I like Jim N Nicks fine but for their food and the taste they are way over-priced to me. You said you liked sauce on the vinegar side don't know if they are still around in Birmingham area or not but Ollie's B-que sauce was more of that nature and think would be more to your liking. Have not checked out to see if they are still around or not though? Demetris in Homewood was just awful to me and I had heard they were wonderful, not so to me. As far as ribs go, I have not really found a place for ribs that I truly like a whole lot, as me being a country gal I like the country style ribs with meat and a little fat on them just have to fix them at home cannot locate any anywhere. But have not had them in a long while, but Chili's baby back ribs used to be really good.


                                                                            Golden Rule
                                                                            81 Church St, Birmingham, AL 35213

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: catlover0153

                                                                              Anyone ever try Bolton's BBQ?

                                                                              I tried his pulled pork before. Curious if anyone has been to the restaurant.

                                                                              1. re: Big Daddy

                                                                                We went to Big Bolton's last weekend. We found it, despite my GPS guiding us to their home a few miles up the highway instead of the restaurant. It was very good, from the moist pulled pork right on down to the peanut butter pie. I wished the pulled pork tasted a little smokier and had more bark, in it. Their "roasted" (deep fried) corn on the cob was really awesome, even better than Big Daddy's BBQ in Warrior used to serve before their fire. I tried their potato salad which was some of the best I've ever eaten....made with sour cream rather than mayo, a real treat. The peanut butter pie (not made in the shop, but by a family friend) was really incredible, dense, luscious. I just wish Bolton's wasn't so far away. We combined our lunch there with an antique hunting trip, stopping in at a shop in Springville, then up to Atalla to shop at some of their antique shops. I don't think we'll go all the way up there just to eat BBQ again, even though it was good.. Maybe for some more of that peanut butter pie, though....wow.

                                                                                1. re: curej

                                                                                  What's the best BBQ on I 20 going through Birmingham, AL close to the IS. I think Golden Rule in Irondale is close. Anything else. Thanks.

                                                                                  Golden Rule
                                                                                  81 Church St, Birmingham, AL 35213

                                                                            2. Went to Saw's recently.....The question came up: Can pulled pork be TOO tender? I asked one of the employees if they were injecting their butts (thinking "meat tenderizer"). However, the lady behind the counter said that they had just left the meat in the smoker too long. Anyway, the pork was actually mushy, little chew. I really didn't like it.....

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: curej

                                                                                It definitely can be. It's happened to me. I cook big quantities a few times a year. It took me a while to figure out that the cooler I was holding finished meat in did too good a job sometimes. Residual heat from 30 to 50lb of cooked meat would continue to cook the whole thing. Now I wrap it up in foil and leave it out for 10-15 min before putting it in the holding box.

                                                                                Cooking as much stuff as most of these restaurants do, and you're bound to have some that doesn't work out.

                                                                              2. I've been to the vast majority of the places mentioned in this thread, so I'll throw in my 2 cents. In Alabama, I have found 2 barbeque restaurants that I truly enjoy: Saw's (in Homewood) and Archibald's. Of the two, Archibald's is superior overall, but the chicken at Saw's is perfect.

                                                                                Archibald's is nothing more than a cinderblock shed in the middle of a rundown neighborhood in Tuscaloosa (Northport, technically). The pulled pork is slow-cooked, and bathed in a very thin, vinegar sauce. There also appears to be some South Carolina mustard-sauce influence as well. The pulled meat is smoky, fatty, and tender. It's the best pulled pork I've ever had, and truly better than anything else in Alabama. There's no sides (except white bread, made deliciously soggy by the sauce). If you love BBQ, it's worth the drive from Birmingham. Archibald's is now the standard by which I judge all 'cue.

                                                                                A few other Alabama places that are worth going to, but are not truly great: Jim N Nicks, Dreamland, The Brick Pit (Mobile).