As regular readers know, every year I teach a Thursday afternoon class in the University of Alabama Honors College for my good friend, Bob McCurley. That means I get to visit family and eat some barbecue. (I also get two tickets to an Alabama football game, which makes me the highest-paid guest lecturer on earth.) This trip I headed to a new barbecue place, the Birmingham branch of Rodney Scott’s.
Rodney Scott, as all the world knows, is the rare barbecue chef who has been honored by the James Beard Foundation. I’ve reviewed Scott’s, the long time family place in Hemingway, South Carolina, as well as his newish eponymous place in Charle\ston. The Birmingham branch is the first whole hog barbecue place in Birmingham — maybe Alabama, outside Sumter County. And the Birmigham place has the same feel as the Charleston version: a modern feel with lots of outside seating to supplement the inside seating.
My nephew-in-law, Matt Coe, joined me. Good looking, isn’t he?
Matt is married to my brother David’s daughter, Emily, who is much better looking than Matt. As you can see, Matt (and Emily), are among my Auburn relatives, notwithstanding which they are great people and doing a great job raising two lovely and lively children.
Matt and I both ordered pork plates with macaroni and cheese and greens. The pork:
The macaroni and cheese needs no introduction,
nor do the greens.
At the last minute, I decided to order some hushpuppies, for scientific research. Hushpuppies are ubiquitous in barbecue places in the Carolinas, but pretty well limited to seafood places in Alabama. Matt graciously ate half of them to save me from overeating.
Let’s start with the pork. Like that a tRodney Scott’s in Charleston and Scott’s in Hemingway, the pork is vey well cooked. It tastes great, tender and flavorful. This is excellent barbecue.
It’s similar to but not exactly the same as the pork at the Rodney Scott’s in Charleston, and it’s an outlier among Birmingham barbecue places. In a way, it’s a cross between the two. Rodney Scott’s uses oak rather than hickory, the Birmingham go-to wood, and has a medium chop, a bit finer than at the Charleston shop. As in Charleston, the meat is tossed lightly in a vinegar and pepper sauce with a touch of sugar.
There are other sauces on the table — Rodney’s sauce (with which the meat is tossed); Other Sauce, which is sweeter but still has vinegar; and Kathy’s Sauce, which is sweeter and has a little less heat than the Other Sauce. Got that? Matt likes sweeter sauces than I, and preferred the Kathy’s and Other. I think even the Rodney’s Sauce had too much (ie, some) sugar, but I agree that all of the sauces are well seasoned. None comes close to overwhelming the flavor of the pork.
We both liked the macaroni and cheese, which was good even by the demanding Alabama standard. The pasta was well cooked and tossed with nice creamy sauces, and with the usual cap of cheese.
The hushpuppies had good flavor, but lacked the great crust you find so often in North Carolina. On the other hand, the greens were excellent, much better than the greens at the Charleston location. And they come with lots of excellent pot likker, which proved a perfect match for the hushpuppies.
I chatted briefly with the local manager, Mr. Roscoe Hall (He’s a friend of Matt’s.) Mr Hall observed that Birmingham is a a rib town, ribs and wings, but whole hog is catching on. I look forward to checking out Rodney Scott’s on future trips to Birmingham. If the Birmingham and Carolina styles continue to merge, life will be interesting indeed.
You need to go eat at Rodney Scott’s. And try those greens.
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