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Bunyan's Bar-B-Que

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I feel like most of my barbecue stories start with me telling how my first trip was during my documentary production days and how I finally went back over 20 years later.  Well, that’s the way this one starts.  I first found Bunyan’s in the late 1990’s with my friend and documentary producer, Max Shores.  Max was always a good sport for trying new places and later produced a documentary on barbecue in Alabama.  I had moved on from public TV by then so I missed out on that delicious adventure.  More than the barbecue I missed working with Max and chasing down barbecue joints and meat-n-threes everywhere we went.  Those were good times with great food!

I don’t remember much about my lunch at Bunyan’s with Max, but I remembered Bunyan’s was in Florence.  When I saw them appear on’s Top 50 list I knew I had to try them again.  This time I was a more experienced barbecue connoisseur and was going with Lamarr Chaplin, coworker, friend, and food fanatic.  (You may remember Lamarr from another review.  He’s the Batman superfan with a collection of memorabilia that he doesn’t have room enough to display.). We were on day two of location scouting the Florence area and made Bunyan’s our lunch stop.  He and I do an exceptional job of planning our work day around food.

Bunyan’s is a carry out restaurant.  You order at the counter, grab your drink from the cooler, and carry it out the door.  If the weather is nice you can eat at the old picnic tables just outside, which is a nice option.  The last time I went, we sat outside although it was 50 degrees and sunny.  It was comfortable enough and the steam just rose into that cold air when we opened our trays.  My producer finished his meal in about five minutes, before I’d really finished my pictures and meal notes.  He was hungry but it really was that good.

The pork was very delicate; soft and pulled apart very gently in a way that made me think of fish.  It had a strong pork flavor but needed the sauce.  A meal comes with both sauces, a hot and a mild.  They’re vinegar based and the hot has a lot of cayenne, so if you’re not a heavy spice person you’ll want to tone it down a notch.  I think they’re best when mixed together.

All of the sides are exceptional!  The baked beans are sweet and flavored generously with aromatics.  They reminded me of a stew, meaty and served piping hot, which was very comforting on that cool day.  The potato salad is made with russets in a well-balanced mix of mayo and vinegar.  I believe it also had pimentos and overall was a bit tart.  It is extremely flavorful and a great partner to those rich beans.  However, the star is the hot slaw.  It’s a yellow slaw, spicy and tangy, finely grated to give it a terrific crunch.  The cool temperature is a great contrast to the rest of the meal.  If does have a surprise, which is just the slightest bit of heat that hits the back of your throat.  It blows me away every time I have it and is on my list of things you have to try.  I can’t think of anything to compare it to so be prepared for an original experience.

One other note, while waiting on our food two people came in after us and ordered hot dogs.  I thought in the moment there must be something special about their dogs but I didn’t get one.  A few weeks later I saw an article on raving about Bunyan’s hot dogs.  They’re an old school red wiener served on a toasted bun with hot slaw on top.  They’re so good that the advice I’ve read on ordering them is, “However many you think you can eat, order three times that many.”  Guess what I’m getting on my next visit.

Bonus points for:

Order at the counter

Coke products

Exceptional baked beans

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