Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue in Decatur, Alabama

December 3, 2014:

Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue in Decatur is littered with giant trophies from barbecue competitions, and it regularly is on lists of the X best barbecue places in the US (and thus the world).  A visit to Decatur shows that (1) winning barbecue competitions involves skills that do not translate into running a great barbecue place, and (2) most lists of the X best barbecue places in the US are not to be trusted.

This is not to say that Bob Gibson has bad barbecue.  It certainly is good barbecue — moist and tender with a pretty good bit of hickory flavor — but there certainly are better places for barbecue of that style  in Alabama.  If you’re in Decatur, you should eat there, and it is well worth the detour off I-65. You definitely should order the macaroni and cheese, which is superb, and you definitely should get a slice of pie.  We had coconut as part of my ongoing forlorn quest for coconut pie as good as they made at Ollie’s — the Holy Grail of pie.  The coconut custard was good and the crust was remarkable.  I usually regard pie crust as part of the price you pay for eating pie, but this crust added value.

Bob Gibson’s also is remarkable for their white barbecue sauce — something found only in Alabama, so far as I know — until everyone started copying it.  The white sauce is basically vinegar and mayonnaise with some herbs and spices thrown in.  It is good — much better than their Championship sauce, which tastes heavily of molasses, or their Red sauce, which doesn’t taste like much at all.  It offers the vinegar counterpoint to the richness of pork, but it could use some of the kick that red pepper offers.

The green beans were ok and the yeast rolls were good.  I don’t know why they give you a pickle spear rather than dill chips. I suppose it comes from spending all that time at barbecue competitions.


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