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Oct 10, 2009 01:09 PM

Alabama barbecue and southern cooking recs

I'll be traveling to Birningham and Montgomery next week. As you can see by my name I live in a region devoid of good barbecue. Any recommendations?

Also, I might be able to make it up to Decatur to go to Big Bob Gibson's but time is tight. Is it wirth the extra trip or can I find good cue in Birmingham or Montgomery? I'm concerned that Gibsons is so well known that it won't live up to the hype.

Also, any authentic southern food places that are not for tourists?


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  1. there is a LONG thread here on BBQ in Birmingham- search it- there are so many differetn palces but one of the newsest is Saw's in Homewood- used to work for southern Living / Cooking Light?? very good- I wouldn't drive to Decatur- you will find plenty here in the Ham

    1. The classic is Dreamland, although there are those (including my stepdad, a long-time Tuscaloosan and 5+ generation Alabamian) who claim that the B'ham location isn't as good as the original restaurant in Tuscaloosa. You'll find tourists there, but plenty of locals as well.

      Bob Sykes gets a lot of love, but it's in Bessemer. Lots closer than Decatur, but not right in town.

      Speaking of Bessemer, the Bright Star Restaurant does an "authentic southern food" lunch about as well as any place this non-Southern boy has eaten. Definitely a local crowd.

      1. BBQ -- Dreamland in Tuscaloosa (two locations -- Google them) or Jim 'n Nicks (numerous locations in B'ham and Mtgy areas)?

        Agree with recommendation re bright star in Bessemer (15 min west of downtown B'ham). Greek restaurant/diner meets southern slaw...

        6 Replies
        1. re: 2923

          Thanks for the responses. How about Jim 'N Nicks BBQ?

          1. re: TeamPhilly

            Jim N Nicks is good, though I like the location in Homewood much better than the one in Hoover.

            Full Moon BBQ located at 2000 Patton Chapel Rd. in Hoover is my pick over Jim N Nicks. And, Full Moon was voted One of the 10 best Barbeque Restaurants in the US. The chow-chow that tops the sandwich is kicker, but you can have them leave it off. Also, grab some of the cookies too. Yummy!

            1. re: Jannae

              I've only eaten at the Full Moon in Hoover once, but the pork smelled and tasted like old grease from an uncleaned smoker. If the meat can't stand on its own w/o drenching in sauce, then it isn't worth it.

              My parents have become regulars at Saw's in Edgewood and are big fans. And I still like Miss Myra's even though the sides are basically Sysco products.

            2. re: TeamPhilly

              Dreamland may be a classic but it's far from the best in town. Their ribs are fired on an open pit, not slow smoked and thus the collagen hasn't had enough time to render, making them a bit tough. Saw's has the best pulled in town, followed by Jim and Nicks (Southside) then maybe Full Moon although the que at Moe's can be good if you catch them on the right day.

              1. re: TeamPhilly

                I wouldn't go to Jim 'N Nicks in Montgomery at all. Although it is a chain out of Birmingham, it is still a chain- and nowhere is it more evident than in Montgomery. If you want something inherently Alabama that isn't represented in any of the aforementioned places, try Alabama white bbq sauce(horse radish and mayo) by ordering the "beer joints" from love shack on the Atlanta Highway here in the gump, or the Alabama black bbq sauce(clove infused) from Chris's BBQ in Prattvile.

                1. re: araess

                  I've eaten at a few barbecue restaurants over the past 2 months in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area as part of a spiritual journey to discover the best barbecue in the country. From what I've had in Alabama, I was definitely disappointed by Dreamland's ribs despite how great their sauce is. Dreamland grills its ribs for 45 minutes over an open pit -- that's hardly barbecue if you ask me. I hear the consensus in T-Town is that Archibald's serves the best barbecue.

                  I thought Saw's Barbecue (used to be Broadway) in Homewood (Birmingham) is the best I've tried to date in the area. Jim N' Nicks was decent, Full Moon's pork was really good (I hear their chicken sandwich is legendary), Golden Rule was decent for a chain, while Big Bob Gibsons up in Decatur was tragically awful.

                  I reviewed each restaurant at if you care to read in greater detail with photographs of what I ordered at each.

                  The best barbecue in Alabama is easily The Brick Pit in Mobile. Definitely check that out if you're ever down near the Gulf.

            3. The best bbq in Montgomery, hands down, is Arirang. You cook it on a grill that is in the middle of the table, to your liking. I think the best thing about the whole deal is the quality of the meat. The ribs are always completely marbled and bright red. It is marinated in a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, scallion, garlic, or a sweet and spicy red pepper paste depending on how you order. It goes so good with the sweet potato vodka that they have there, and the sides are complimentary, change often, and are always fresh.
              more suggestions for the area can be found here:

              1. While my wife and I love the beef brisket and thick-sliced smoked turkey from Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, to me their pulled BBQ (pork & beef) is rather bland--juicy and tender, but B-L-A-N-D. How they've won so many contests is beyond me, but I'm sure they try harder for competitions.

                Will you be DRIVING to B'ham/Montgomery via I-65? If so, then I highly recommend you check out LAWLER'S BBQ just off Exit 351 @ Hwy 72 in Athens, AL (North Alabama)! Some of THE most flavorful pulled pork BBQ that I've ever had in my 30 years of living in the area. They're based out of Huntsville, but all of the locations I've eaten at have proven consistently delicious.

                Dreamland's in T-Town (Tuscaloosa) is the only one of those that I'd recommend. Other locales are just too inconsistent. The rib sammich is mighty tasty, though.

                Jim 'N Nick's is...well, okay, but again, very inconsistent between locations. I have yet to have anything "worth writing home about" at any of the 3 locations I've eaten at (i.e., don't waste your time).

                Regardless of where you'll end up, there is great BBQ to be found in almost every corner & cranny of this state if you know where to (and NOT to) go.