Practically across the street from one of the oldest barbecue traditions in this part of the state, one of the newest has set up shop. They’re not like most of the competition, that’s for sure.
The very best meal on our road trip, by a country mile, was the last stop on the tour. Our friends Ric and Maggi, of whom we never see enough, strongly recommended that we meet them at Zombie Pig, a well-known food truck that opened its first brick and mortar location earlier this year. It is fantastic and incredibly popular. They warn guests that they plan to run out of meat every day, and we were indeed too late at 5 pm for either the brisket or the pulled pork. Just as well that the ribs and the pulled chicken are so darn good then.
This was one of those peculiar little road trips where I enjoyed each meal a little bit better than the one that preceded it, but the biggest leap in quality came right here at the end. I really enjoy the typical Columbus / Phenix City style of barbecue, which sees the meat simmering in the region’s usual mustard sauce, and most of the restaurants in this area have some kind of take on this style. But Zombie Pig’s owners, Brad, Juan and Dave, have started this venture after several years as a competition team, specializing in what they call a Kansas City style. The pulled chicken has a really dense dusting of a dry spice rub, and a variety of sauces available. Nobody else in town does it this way.
I wish I could tell you what to expect from the pork or the brisket, but I’ll gladly tell you that the chicken was just phenomenal. The ribs were certainly above average, really juicy and tender, but the chicken was easily among the best pulled barbecue chicken I’ve had in ages. That spice rub is something else. And while the barbecue places around Columbus are typically known for having mustard-based sauces, they have a few to choose from here, including an “ask at the register” bottle of an incredibly spicy hot sauce. That stuff is completely delicious, but they don’t leave it on the tables for a reason.
Ric and Maggi were really enthusiastic about Zombie Pig, and with good reason. We enjoyed catching up – we just never have time anymore, but it’s great to spend time with them – and I thought about just how many great barbecue places around Columbus and southern Alabama I’ve been to with my old buddy. He needs to come this way so I can introduce him to some Tennessee places.
But first, I think I need to find some places within a quick drive that are as good as Zombie Pig. There are some pretty good ones near me, but none this good so far. My last new Georgia barbecue restaurant before we moved has left a pretty high bar to beat. I would need to get on the road and start exploring eastern Tennessee barbecue, and soon!
Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 390 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!