Originally posted on You Only Live Once.
It’s a five hour drive from Memphis to Atlanta. The drive is made easier knowing that you’ve stolen a week’s worth of breakfast cereal from The Comfort Inn that you were staying at, god knows you’ll need that fibre after the meat with a side of meat you’ve had for almost every meal this holiday. It also helps if you get a fancy hire car with the cable radio stations. The Comedy Central station is just hour after hour of stand up from different comedians, most of which aren’t Carlos Mencia and really help make the time fly by. You also burn a few calories, necessary after all those aforementioned meat meals. Oh and while we’re on the subject of meat meals, the best way to make a five hour drive seem shorter is to visit a BBQ spot bang in the middle of the journey.
To get to Atlanta from Memphis, you have to drive through the state of Alabama. I can’t tell you much about Alabama. We were amped about being in the same state that My Cousin Vinny was filmed in (we were considering trying to find Sac-O-Suds but realised it was actually in Georgia) and had read about a cool donut place but the main Alabama landmark we were looking forward to was Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in the town of Decatur.
Strangely complicated spelling of the word ‘barbecue’: check. Location in the middle of the highway, surrounded by nothing: check. Fluorescent cartoon pig: check. From the outside of the restaurant, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q really seemed to have it all. After eating at Payne’s and Spooney’s, this was like being upgraded to Disneyworld after spending a week at a fun park run out of someones front yard. Even the name conjured magnificence. Who was Bob Gibson, and just how big was he?
The greatness continued inside. Next to the counter were dozens of trophies, some taller than I was and covered in brass pigs. Decades of recognition for the best sauce, the best ribs and the best chicken surrounded us. We were taken to our table, covered in various bottles of award winning sauce – in all different colours, from dark brown, to less brown, a reddy brown and… white? I had never seen a white bbq sauce before. It was an Alabama miracle, and one that is supposedly incredible with chicken. We hadn’t come across chicken on the menu at any of the BBQ spots we’d visited either, so we ordered a chicken plate, which came with slaw, beans, potato salad and a crunchy pickle, creating a nice visual symmetry with the drumstick, almost a peace sign on my plate. Has anybody started a ‘peaceful bbq plate’ tumblr?
How did it taste? The chicken was awesome. The skin was smoky and salty, the dark meat nice and juicy. As I expected it would be, the breast was unfortunately pretty dry. Some meats just aren’t made for slow cooking. The white bbq sauce was a knockout though, ensuring I ate even the driest parts of the chicken, just to enjoy more of the creamy vinegar sauce. We bought a bottle to take home, which joined some 80 other bottles of sauce in a suitcase that I didn’t declare at customs upon returning to Sydney.
We also ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which was disappointing but far from terrible. Certainly not worthy of the gigantic trophies we saw in the entrance anyway. As we left I wondered if they’d notice a missing trophy or two – they would look really nice in Spooney’s front yard.
Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q
1715 6th Ave SE, Decatur, Alabama +1 256-350-6969
Next up: Ribs in Atlanta!
Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.
Part 1, read it here: When Levins did Austin, Texas
Part 2, read it here: When Levins did Lockhart, Texas
Part 3, read it here: When Levins did Spooney’s Bar-B-Que, Mississipi
Part 4, read it here: When Levins did Memphis Tennessee