Marie’s B-B-Q House, Heflin AL

Because, as I’ve mentioned, I am a little mercenary and wanted specifically to add an extra chapter or two to this blog, I hoped to grab one more small bite to eat before we got back to Atlanta. So on our way into town, I noticed that there was an outpost of a small, somewhat well-known barbecue chain located in St. Clair County, and decided that when we left Birmingham several hours later, we would stop by and have a snack and another entry. It didn’t work out that way; we did indeed pull off at that exit to gas up, but darned if we weren’t all still so stuffed from the sandwiches at Kool Korner that none of us could face the prospect of ordering even a single sandwich.

The stop for gas wasn’t without incident. While filling up, honest to murgatroyd, two good old boys pulled up beside us and the driver asked me, “Hey, man, where’s the Wal-Mart at?” I’m going to be aggravating Marie with my impression of that dude for months.

So we resumed eastward on I-20 for another half-hour or so. On our side of Anniston, however, I noticed a “Gas-Food-Lodging” sign for another small chain of fast food restaurants local to the area, and made a command decision to pull off, find the place, enjoy a small meal we can’t get at home, and have something to write about. Once again, however, we were a little disappointed. We drove north a little more than a mile and didn’t find the place. We did, however, pass a barbecue place called Marie’s on the way.

“Well, we will just stop there instead,” I suggested. “And see whether they’re good enough to be named after me,” Marie replied.

Once upon a time, before Urbanspoon and Roadfood and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this is how we found interesting restaurants, just by chance. Marie’s is probably one of the nicer little places in the area, and has a large enough dining room to make Saturday afternoons a little cracking, but it was a fairly slow evening when we stopped in. There were some football highlights on TV and just a few other customers.

Since the most that any of us could be accused of was “peckish,” Marie and my daughter and I shared a single sandwich, a bowl of stew and some fries. Sadly, this place does not offer white sauce, adding further evidence to my suggestion that even in north Alabama, white sauce is more of an occasional curiosity than a regional specialty.

The chopped pork was not bad, if a little uninspiring, but the Brunswick stew was completely terrific. It was nicely thick, and very flavorful and full of deliciously stringy meat. The chopped pork just wished it was that good. In its favor, the tasty, thick tomato-based sauce mixed quite well with it, but all three of us agreed that the stew was among the high points of our Alabama trip.

Upon consideration of the matter, this restaurant is not fit to be named after Marie. But there again, no restaurant is, not even my favorites, so we won’t hold it against them. Stew this good shouldn’t be dismissed for any reason, and certainly none as silly as this.

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