What do you do the day after a football game in Tuscaloosa? Why, you eat barbecue. That’s just what Nancy and I did after church on the day after the Alabama-Arkansas game. We met friends – Paul and Kelly and Sammy and Isaac Horwitz at the Jim and Nick’s in Tuscaloosa. (Actually, they style themselves Jim ‘N Nick’s, but I oppose capitalizing the letter after an apostrophe and omitting the apostrophe after the N.) The Tuscaloosa outpost is a nice new place downtown. All of the Jim and Nick’s are relatively new and mid-scale: not a traditional hole in the wall and not a white tablecloth place like, say, The Pit in Raleigh. Jim and Nick’s is a chain – the best barbecue chain in the country by many measures, and Jim (or is it Nick – yeah, Nick) is a leader in the Fatback Pig Project and other efforts to improve breeds and support local farmers. You have to love Jim and Nick’s. And it was a gorgeous day in Tuscaloosa, sunny and warm, perfect weather for sitting outside with friends and eating barbecue.
But they are a chain and subject to the vagaries of the local management. See, for example, my recent post on breakfast at their place at Birmingham airport. Tuscaloosa is a great barbecue town and I have had good barbecue at the Jim and Nick’s there before. But the Tuscaloosa staff had just been through a game day in which they had. no doubt, exhausted themselves helping to feed the hundreds of thousands of hungry fans who poured into town. They were off their game, at least as to my order, which was a ribs and chicken combination plate with collards and cole slaw.
I have to say that the ribs appeared to have been re-heated. They were not as moist as they should have been, and really not up to Alabama standards. That’s not to say that I didn’t eat them. I did. And the chicken, which was white meat tossed in a bland red sauce, was similarly below par, with the lack of taste and moisture common to white meat. I was going to leave it until the waiter brought some white sauce. The richness and tang of the sauce really brought the chicken to life and I made short work of it.
The collards and slaw were up to par, but the star of the show was an appetizer – smoked sausage with pimento cheese and serrano peppers and saltines.
The sausage was very, very good. Nancy had a taste and then had several more, and Nancy usually avoids sausage. (We have sort of a Jack Sprat and wife relationship.) It may be the best sausage I’ve had at a barbecue place other than the Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas. And the pimento cheese was good and made better by the serrano peppers and the traditional pimento cheese accompaniment – saltines.
All in all it was a good lunch on a beautiful day with good friends. I’ll be happy to eat there again, but maybe not on a Sunday after a game.