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Cotton State BBQ

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Cotton State BBQ was our stop on day two of our Anniversary/Mobile barbecue excursion.  It made’s Alabama Barbecue Bucket List, which I believe numbers 50 in total.  This weekend would tick all three Mobile joints off my goal of eating at each one of them.  But something felt different about Cotton State, even from just the little bit I knew.  That assumption proved to be true.

Cotton State sits in an old corner building in an historic part of downtown.  There’s no parking at the restaurant so you’ll have to park on the street or find a small lot.  That wasn’t a problem for me as I could have spent all afternoon wandering those blocks, looking at all the old buildings.  The saying, “Everything old is new again” could be applied to that entire area in some form.  If you work downtown, it’s probably really easy to walk over, pick up lunch, and take it back to the office.  We walked less than two blocks from where we parked.

The inside is small with a décor that mixes wood, metal, and brick to bring old and new together.  It reminded me of the “Dude Room” I’m building at home.  The term “Man Cave” is overused so I’m building a “Dude Room” that’s a mix of all different materials and textures and contains anything old that I find cool.  (My fear in this design approach is that the Dude Room would end up looking like a Cracker Barrel, but so far it has its own personality.)  The menu is just as diverse as the surroundings, yet everything on it makes sense.  There are some Conecuh sausage dishes, barbecue potatoes and nachos, and a dessert menu that includes Moon Drop Banana Pudding (more on that later) and New Orleans Style Sno Balls made with an antique Ortolani’s Sno-Wizard machine that resides in the dining room.  Very cool!

The surprises don’t stop there.  The pork is served sliced…thinly…using a deli slicer.  I’ve been to only one other restaurant that did a similar treatment and that was in southern Virginia.  They would sauce the meat and then throw it on the flattop to warm it and caramelize all the sugars to form a beautiful, candy like crust.  I loved it and while Cotton State doesn’t do the same thing, slicing it thinly makes a different feel and taste while eating.  The color was a smokey pink and every bite was tender.  It paired with a classic sauce that started out mild but afterwards hit you with just enough spice right in the middle of the tongue.  To me that’s a sign of a complex, layered sauce and I find those kinds fascinating.

There were no baked beans so I went with the slaw, which is a course cut cabbage in a peppery dressing.  I love it when slaw cabbage is cut so it maintains a crunch and eats more like a salad than a stew.  I paired it with fries which were marvelously crisp on the outside but still soft inside.  They were generously seasoned, adding yet another dimension to what turned into a sampler for the taste buds.  Mary had the loaded fries with chicken.  The below picture says all you need to know, other than Mary raved about how well the bacon was cooked.  She even asked the server to give our compliments to the cook.

Now…dessert.  I was intrigued by the Moon Drop Banana Pudding from the very start but I didn’t know if I’d have room.  It’s described as a homemade banana custard with whipped cream and a banana Moon Pie tucked into the top.  Can something be decadent that isn’t chocolate.  If it can then this dessert was just that.  The custard was luscious and rich, with real banana slices that had yet to brown and some vanilla wafers that still had their crunch.  I don’t believe the whipped cream was homemade but it was an ideal pairing.  Unfortunately for me they were out of Moon Pies so I didn’t get the full experience, but even so that first bite was one of those ah-ha moments.  We’ve all had them, where we taste something for the first time that is absolutely out of this world.  I just closed my eyes and sent all my sensory attention to the old tastebuds, and they were very happy for it.

Bonus points for:

Coke products

Sauce on the table

Oldies on the radio

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