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 …
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.
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.
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.
Good writeup. Just by way of clarification:
It's Miss Myra's (not Myrna). And the white sauce is just for the chicken.
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.
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!
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.