Last week, we introduced you to Chuck’s Bar-B-Que in Opelika and explained how the owner’s family helped to craft the dominant style of barbecue, and the omnipresent mustard-based sauce, in the region. Everybody else in the area is following in those footprints, even if some of those restaurants, like Price’s Barbecue House, have a huge following of their own.
The Barbecue House opened in 1978 in some absolutely prime real estate. College Street (AL-15) forms the eastern border of the main campus of Auburn University, and in the days before restaurant mega-chains, whether fast food or fast casual, moved in, Price’s had the stretch to itself, a very easy walk from either dorms or all the off-campus housing. So many years of graduating classes have left with fond memories of the barbecue here, particularly on game day, when hundreds of pounds of meat are sold for tailgating.
A meal at Price’s is very similar to a meal at Chuck’s (or at Smokey Pig), but I wanted to see just how similar they were, so I again ordered chipped pork simmered in the sauce, and some of the BBQ slaw, prepared over hickory wood in a kitchen fireplace. The plate here costs about a dollar more than in Opelika, but you get larger portions as well.
I honestly could not taste any difference at all between the meals. If you like one, and you certainly should, you will also enjoy the other. Then again, they were so darn similar that I found myself wishing that I had ordered something else – maybe the sliced pork with the sauce on the side? – so that I could have a different experience. Well, I know for next time.
We did have one slightly different experience at Price’s, however. See, at Chuck’s, all of the employees were kept busy behind the counter serving the long line of guests, and we were unable to interact with any of them after we ordered our food. We arrived at Price’s a little after two after parking in the deck by Jordan-Hare Stadium and walking across campus, sweaty and a little tired, to find the dining room starting to clear out after a very busy lunch. Quite a few students were moving in this weekend, and it was Bid Day for the sororities, so there were quite a few families in town having lunch and seeing their kids off. We took the last available table, but only one group came in behind us, so it cleared out pretty evenly, allowing the very friendly staff to clean up and have meals themselves, giving us a chance to say hellos and hear how beloved Price’s is to the locals and to the university population.
Apart from serving good food, Jeff Price employs a small army of people who genuinely enjoy working there and it all contributes to a really wonderful experience for guests. I’m not at all surprised that they’ve been packing in guests for thirty-five years, and when I think about all those undergraduates getting their first sample of a local specialty that they can’t get at home, I’m ever so slightly envious. Eat well, young Tigers, for the barbecue in east central Alabama and west central Georgia is not like anyplace else’s.
You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 290!) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s terrific for anybody planning a barbecue road trip through the southeast!