The Original Full Moon Bar-B-Que, Birmingham, Alabama

Is this a picture of Joe Dimaggio with Bear Bryant?

Full moon bear and dimaggio

The photo is on an obscure corner of a wall of the original Full Moon on 25th Street and 5th Avenue South in Birmingham, along with about a zillion other pictures celebrating the heroes of Alabama football and those of less exalted sports at Alabama, Auburn, and UAB.

At least outside of Auburn, every barbecue place in Alabama has to have at least one picture of Bear Bryant on the wall (if it doesn’t, turn around and walk out), and the more the merrier.  Full Moon really outdoes itself.  I’m confident that in Auburn the good barbecue places have pictures of Shug Jordan and Bo Jackson and Cam Newton — probably Cam dabbing.  But Bear Bryant and Joe Dimaggio?  Now that’s tall cotton.

I’d been to the Full Moon in Tuscaloosa many times, and the one on 280 south of Birmingham, but never the original.  In  my experience the original of a chain usually is the best of the bunch.

Full moon original

I had a pork plate with good potato salad and Full Moon Chow Chow.

Full Moon plate

The Chow Chow at Full Moon is a real attraction. For the uninitiated, Chow Chow is a relish of pickled vegetables –- it’s a good use for green tomatoes at the end of summer, the ones that will never ripen.  There is an infinite variety of Chow Chow recipes. Most are sweet with a little tang, but the Full Moon variety is a standout.  It seems to be a mix of cabbage, onions, carrots, mustard, vinegar, cayenne, and who knows what else.  It’s hot and tangy and is an excellent accompaniment to the rich taste of pork barbecue.

And the barbecue at Full Moon is good. They use a brick pit and hickory, of course.

Full moon pit

That’s a good looking brick pit.  The barbecue that comes out of that pit is smoky, moist, tender, and just plain delicious.  The only quibble I have with Full Moon is their sauce, and you’ll probably disagree with me on that.  The sauce is too thick and sweet for my taste, more like a rib sauce than a good vinegar-based sauce, and it tends to smother the meat if you let it.  The key  — for me is to remember to ask for no sauce (there’s sauce on each table), but I always forget, especially when I notice a picture of Bear Bryant and Joe Dimaggio.  So I scrape away what I can, eat the “clean” meat, and then mix Chow Chow with the sauced meat. The result is good -– a mixture of sharp, sweet, hot, smoky, and rich (insert joke, “I used to date a girl like that”), but the meat really is better without the sauce.

Full Moon also is noted for its signature cookies, pecan chocolate chip cookies dipped halfway into thick milk chocolate.  I had never tried them, so I ordered one, just for you, readers.  They gave me two, which was nice.  The cookies are a pretty good concept, well executed, but I hardly ever feel like dessert after eating barbecue.  Well, unless they have banana pudding.

The Full Moon chain seems to be consistent throughout its locations.  They all have the Chow Chow, and they all have good barbecue.   I can’t think of a chain anywhere that’s more consistent and more reliably good.  I’ve enjoyed each I’ve tried, and wouldn’t hesitate to try any of them.  You should try one — or all of them — yourself.  And be sure to check out the picture of the Bear and Joltin’ Joe.

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