The Original Golden Rule, Irondale, Alabama

I really like the Original Golden Rule.  It has been around forever, and was our go-to place after Ollie’s of Blessed Memory closed.  That’s where my father would go when he decided we needed a pork butt to supplement the Thanksgiving turkey.  It was Patrick’s first restaurant.  (He was only a few months  old and slept through it, dreaming sweetly, I’m sure, of barbecue.)  It is like an old friend, one who never lets you down.

I can’t say the same thing about all of the branches of the Golden Rule chain.  Actually, the only branch at which I’ve ever eaten was the one that used to be at the Birmingham Airport.  (The Birmingham Airport now has a Jim and Nicks.  What a great airport!)  The quality of barbecue chains’ places depends on the quality of their pit masters, and I’ve had some off experiences at other chains, as regular readers will recall.  The Original Golden Rule rightly celebrates their pit masters and other chefs.

g r interior sign

The pit itself is magnificent, its sheer depth and breadth a mark of the popular demand for barbecue from the Original Golden Rule.

g r pit

We went there with Dear during our trip to Birmingham.  She always suggests we go tot the Golden Rule and, of course, we do.  The building itself is as unprepossessing as a barbecue place should be, and sits on a busy divided highway in Irondale (pronounced Ee-ron’-duh-lay), convenient to the Interstate.  A billboard proudly announces it heritage.

g r sign

The interior reflects the Golden Rule’s move from its original tiny location to larger quarters at a period of interior decoration that many consider unfortunate.  The effect  has been softened by the years and by pictures of Bear Bryant and other sports greats, and it is a fine place in which to eat barbecue.

The menu offers the full range of items appropriate to a barbecue place.

gr menu

And the food really is good.  Dear ordered a small sandwich, chopped, half and half, and added some of my cole slaw to it.

g r dear

Nancy had the sliced pork plate with cole slaw and potato salad.

g r n plateAnd I had a combination plate – a chopped pork sandwich (chopped, half and half0, and two ribs.  The combination plate automatically comes with potato salad and cole slaw.

g r my plate

“Half and half” means that you get half inside and half outside meat.  You can order all inside or all outside meat, or just order a pork sandwich or plate and take your chances.  To me, the half and half combination is the fount of the Original Golden Rule’s greatness.  It take advantage of the perfect char achieved by their pit and the soft smokiness of the interior meat.  All inside meat is good.  All outside meat lacks balance and can have a rough texture.  All outside is better for nibbling than a meal.  They do a medium chop that blends the inside and outside meat nicely.

The Original Golden Rule also has great french fries and green beans and pie and banana pudding.  The ribs were good but that’s not why you go to the Golden Rule.  I ordered them on this trip because I had never had ribs at the Golden Rule before.  The slaw is good, the sort of slaw you can put on a sandwich without ruining it, and the potato salad is good.  The sauce has a touch more spiciness than sweetness, but the meat doesn’t really need it.  It is great on french fries.

I really like the Original Golden Rule and recommend it highly.


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