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Dobb's Famous Bar-B-Q

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If you’ve ever been to Panama City from the upper part of Alabama, you’ve been by Dobb’s. It sits in Dothan on the corner of the bypass and Hwy 231, a spot it’s occupied for decades. Dobb’s is the second oldest barbecue restaurant in Alabama, behind only Golden Rule in Irondale, and part of the inaugural class to the Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame. While any restaurant with over 100 years of service deserves recognition, it isn’t just endurance that keeps Dobb’s going.

There’s a tradition in the South called Homecoming. It’s held one Sunday a year at your family’s home church. By that I mean the church your ancestors helped build and establish. Cameron’s Chapel in Brantley is home for my mom’s family. Her great grandfather helped secure the land upon which the little meetinghouse was built and attendance at Homecoming was part of my life for over 35 years.

Regardless of how good the sermon was, the most anticipated part was lunch on the church grounds. The old concrete table was loaded with casseroles and veggies prepared by little old country women who’d been cooking for seven decades plus. The variety was my favorite part and all of it being darn good amazed me. Something about simple, rural cooking hits me right in the heart and in the stomach. There’s a joy in taking food staples and making them delectable. Dobb’s reminded me of those Sunday homecoming meals. It's what the good Lord’s blessings would taste like if put on a plate.

More empirically speaking, the pork is old school, smoked and chopped so you get both tender center and crispy bark. There’s plenty of smoke flavor and the sandwich comes with a reasonable amount of sauce already mixed in. Along with adding flavor, it helps the meat cling together, making for a tidy sandwich. That’s a thoughtful touch as it keeps the huge portion from tearing apart the soft bun. But if you love sauce, don’t worry. A bottle is on the table and you can self-serve til your stomach’s content.

Dobb’s holds true to a characteristic I’ve seen in a few historical restaurants, that of serving a brown barbecue sauce.  It’s thick and well-seasoned, delivering flavor and enhancing the meat as opposed to covering it. The baked beans were amazing! Served steaming hot, they’re thick and seasoned with plenty of pork, bacon, onion and pepper. The fries were what you always hope for, crispy outside and soft inside.

Dobb’s is an unpretentious, simple take on barbecue. It’s the first thing you’d look for on that after-church picnic table and it would be the first thing gone. The dining room sets that expectation, remaining unchanged for who knows how long. I’m sure it was last remodeled whenever wood paneling was invented, along with orange vinyl benches that have surely seated countless backsides and plastic cafeteria dishes that continue to bear the kitchen’s fruits to happy customers. When you have something good, why mess with it?

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