With a wife from Memphis and years spent in Kansas City, I’ve had my share of barbeque. Lord willing, I plan to have more than my share.
For years, my Birmingham barbeque of choice has been Dreamland (“Ain’t Nothin’ Like ‘Em Nowhere”), although purists insist that the only Dreamland that counts is the Tuscaloosa original. Southern food aficionado, and semi-itinerant preacher, Gary Henry recently recommended Saw’s BBQ of Homewood. With a Birmingham road trip planned with my friend Seth, I figured it was a good time to try it.
Online reviews spoke of long lines–a positive sign–so we arrived early, 11 AM, and faced no line at all. The store front is in lovely Homewood, a small town within the city of Birmingham (Homewood is also home to the excellent men’s clothing store, Plain Clothes). The restaurant is small with limited seating, and if you’re an Alabama sports fan you will appreciate the Roll Tide heavy decor (we sat beside a 1965 Alabama bowl pennant). For an authentic barbeque joint, the atmosphere is “right.”
We both opted for the junior sampler platter: one rib, pulled pork, and smoked chicken with white sauce plus one side. I opted for beans, although Seth went with the deviled eggs. They looked good, and I commend them for offering such a seldom seen restaurant side.
You can see from the picture what arrived: a plate full of goodness, and that was the junior sampler! That rib was even bigger than it looks, too.
Truly quality barbeque starts with the meat, not the sauce. And the Saw’s meat is good. It’s both moist and flavorful. They do offer two sauces, their standard bottled Saw’s Sauce and another unidentified sauce in a squeeze bottle. Usually this is a BBQ joint’s hot sauce, but this one wasn’t really hot. It did have a bit of a spicy kick, and was sweeter. Both were thin, vinegar based sauces, which is how I like them. They were both sweeter than Dreamland’s more straight up vinegar sauce. I switched back and forth, and enjoyed them both.
The surprise hit of the sampler was the smoked chicken. My barbeque bias leans toward all things pork, although I’ve gained an appreciation for brisket. Barbecue chicken has always seemed like a bit of a waste of my time. Saw’s replies with their fine smoked chicken.
The chicken is moist, as it ought to be, and very flavorful. Saw’s makes good use of traditional northern Alabama white barbeque sauce, which helps transform the chicken from an also-ran to a clear barbeque winner.
Saw’s BBQ warrants a return visit, and without hesitation I recommend it to you. Show up early, though. By the time we left the lunch line was already to the door.
What’s your favorite barbeque?