There are three religions in the South. On Saturdays, Southerners flock to football stadiums to cheer. On Sundays, they go to church to pray. But on any day of the week you can find Southerners engaged in the praise of good barbecue.
Alabama Public Television viewers learned about some of the state’s most popular barbecue restaurants with the debut of the documentary, “A Taste of Hog Heaven” in November 2003.
“A Taste of Hog Heaven” doesn’t purport to be a complete guide to ‘cue in the state. In fact, there are no Birmingham restaurants featured, as there is a separate documentary (Holy Smoke over Birmingham) to explore smoked and grilled treats in the Magic City. However, the film includes behind-the-scenes looks at barbecue restaurants with loyal followings across the state.
The Bar-B-Q Place in Ft. Payne is the best barbecue place in Ft. Payne. They could easily say that when this documentary was shot because it was the only barbecue place in Ft. Payne then. The family-owned business was started in 1984. Their fried potatoes, called JoJos, are a favorite compliment to their delicious barbecue.
Bob Gibson was a big man who made great barbecue. He started selling barbecue in his back yard in 1925. Today, Big Bob Gibson’s grandson operates two restaurants in Decatur and caters events across the nation. Don McLemore and his son-in-law Chris Lilly make barbecue that has received top honors at the “Memphis in May” barbecue championship for many years running.
The Boar’s Butt Restaurant in Winfield started as a barbecue stand operated by the local high school football coach. When Joe Hubbert retired from coaching, he expanded the operation to a full service restaurant offering steaks, chicken, fish, seafood, and a wide variety of vegetables as well as mouth-watering barbecued pork, chicken, and ribs. (The Boar’s Butt has burned down and been rebuilt under new management since this documentary was completed. We hear it’s still great!)
Boar’s Butt on Facebook
Little has changed at Dreamland Bar-B-Que since John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened his Tuscaloosa restaurant in 1958, but the restaurant’s reputation for excellent ribs has spread nationwide and led to other locations in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Atlanta. The Tuscaloosa restaurant is small and dark, but people come from near and far to eat pit-cooked ribs with Dreamland’s special sauce.
Jim Lenoir bought a small barbecue stand along Highway 82 in 1975. Although it is five miles away from the nearest town, Billingsley, Jim’s Pit Bar-B-Que has developed quite a following. Now operated by Jim’s daughter, Jeanette, it is a favorite stopping place for truckers and other travelers between Tuscaloosa and Montgomery. It is particularly busy on University of Alabama home football days.
Jim’s on Facebook
Sho’nuff BBQ in Alexander City started out as a bait and tackle shop. When business dropped off, owner Gerald Atchison bought a cooker and started selling barbecue. His business has continued to grow ever since but he doesn’t sell worms anymore. His most popular item is the barbecue-baked potato, a large baked potato topped with a tossed salad and a generous helping of savory pork.
The 13th Street Bar-B-Q in Phenix City isn’t on 13th Street. In fact, there are four locations in east Alabama and west Georgia, and none of them are on 13th Street. If you can find one of them, you’ll want to try the pork chop sandwich, a delectable slice of boneless pork tenderloin covered with a tangy mustard sauce and served on a large bun.
Located in historic Camden, The Dallas Soul Food and Barbeque Restaurant is operated by Luverne Dallas. Dallas carefully guards the recipe for his mild red BBQ sauce, but admits that it contains “a little bit of this and a little dab of that.” A large selection of southern cooked vegetables is on the menu to compliment the ribs and pulled pork.
Bill Armbrecht is pretty particular about his barbecue. He opened The Brick Pit because he couldn’t find good barbecue anywhere else in Mobile. He smokes chickens for 6 to 8 hours, ribs for 12 hours, and pulled pork for up to 30 hours over a blend of hickory and pecan. The results have been voted the best BBQ in Mobile for five years running by readers of the Mobile Bay Monthly.
For many Alabamians, barbecue is more than a meal. It’s a way of life. If you fit that description, then “A Taste of Hog Heaven” is required viewing.
The documentary was produced by Dwight Cammeron and Max Shores of The University of Alabama. Cammeron is a professor in the UA department of Telecommunications and Film and Shores is a producer-director in the UA Center for Public Television and Radio. The University of Alabama has provided programming for Alabama Public Television since 1955 through the Center for Public Television and Radio which is also home to Alabama Public Radio and the University’s TV stations WVUA and WUOA. The Center is a service department of the College of Communications and Information Sciences.
To view a video trailer for “A Taste of Hog Heaven” and read the story behind the documentary, click here.DVDs may be purchased for $21.00 each
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