The Rocket, Jacksonville AL

In our experience, quite a few old “drive-ins” all around the southeast offer barbecue on their menus, but almost every one of them emphasizes burgers and milkshakes, and possibly a little nostalgia in their architecture, more than they emphasize smoked pork. Then there’s The Rocket, which doesn’t look or feel like any drive-in that we’ve run into, and which is much more like a proper barbecue shack than anything else. It’s also phenomenally popular. It’s a tiny little building completely packed with people, and I was afraid we’d have to eat in the car until a table opened up at the last minute. Continue reading “The Rocket, Jacksonville AL”

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Big Chief Drive-In, Glencoe AL

So, on this trip to Alabama, we took a quick break from barbecue to visit a terrific A-frame restaurant. The Big Chief is in the town of Glencoe, right outside Gadsden, and it was originally built in 1963 as a Jack’s Hamburgers – although this was not the same Jack’s as the large fast food chain with locations all around Alabama and southern Tennessee, and in the towns of Tallapoosa and Carrollton in west Georgia. This Jack’s was owned by Jack Locklear, and he had one store here and another in Fort Payne. I’ve not found any evidence that there were any Jack’s Hamburgers other than these two, but would love to be corrected on that point. Continue reading “Big Chief Drive-In, Glencoe AL”

Pruett’s BBQ & Catfish, Gadsden AL

For the second stop on our mini-tour, I picked the closest place to me on the Year of Alabama BBQ app that I had not previously visited: Pruett’s in Gadsden AL. It opened in 1976 and a wonderful blog called The Great North Alabama BBQ Quest paid them a visit in the spring of 2013. Sadly, this blog is no longer being updated; the writer moved back to Europe last year, but it is a terrific resource. Continue reading “Pruett’s BBQ & Catfish, Gadsden AL”

Ray’s Bar-B-Q, Atalla AL

I really got a kick out of how the Alabama Department of Tourism declared this to be “The Year of Alabama Barbecue,” and so I resolved to make one more swing through the state to sample some good chopped pork. I looked around for the best opportunity for a quick day trip with four or so places I’d not been before and home by sunset. I picked pretty well. One of the four was on the state’s list, and two more were on the inaugural edition of Governor Bentley’s Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame, as announced in June. The newest of the four is thirty-nine years old. A lot of history on this drive, as you’ll see. Continue reading “Ray’s Bar-B-Q, Atalla AL”

Betty’s Bar-B-Q, Anniston AL

In early 2014, one of the five or six best barbecue restaurants in Alabama closed after a run of 63 years. It was called Goal Post and it was really terrific. It was a place that I had wanted to visit for ages on the strength of its terrific sign. See, anybody can say that some barbecue is good, and sometimes you can trust the source and sometimes you don’t know them, but you see a picture of a sign as amazing as Goal Post’s, and you just have to see it in person. Art’s like that. Continue reading “Betty’s Bar-B-Q, Anniston AL”

Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q, Bessemer AL

We try to avoid letting personal sadness get into the blog much, but, as some of our friends know, we had some pretty terrible turmoil in our lives some months after my dad passed away in 2011, and, the following year, it got a lot worse before it got resolved. The bottom line is that, for many years, my daughter has seen very, very little of her mother, who lives in Kentucky, and we have, for many of the same reasons, seen very, very little of my older son, who lives there with her. Continue reading “Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q, Bessemer AL”

Taco Casa, Tuscaloosa AL

Other than eating, the first thing that we did in Tuscaloosa was visit the campus of The University of Alabama for our daughter, and the next thing that we did was visit The Children’s Hands-On Museum for our son. We had such a good time here! Like the similar, but unrelated, Hands-On Museum in Johnson City TN, this is a two-story museum (three in the summer) that took over some old, unused storefront space on the main drag in the city. Continue reading “Taco Casa, Tuscaloosa AL”