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Golden Rule

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I’m no stranger to the original Golden Rule Bar-B-Q.  As a kid we frequented that part of town when Century Plaza was in its heyday and Toys R Us was still a thing.  We even broke down once and stopped at an auto parts place on Highway 11 near Golden Rule, where grace sent a friend our way to change our thermostat so we could get home.  Something about their building always caught my attention and looked for it every time we went that way.  Even from the interstate I would watch for it, but I never ate there until I was in my 20’s and my barbecue buddy, Greg McNair, formally introduced me to them.  Some years after that I ended up shooting a commercial for them, but hadn’t been back since then.  It was time for The Chase to make an official visit.

During my visit to Golden Rule, I struck up a conversation with an employee who had recently become the marketing director.  He began telling me some of Golden Rule’s history, which I knew was lengthy but I didn’t realize to what extent.  He said it’s the oldest barbecue restaurant in the state and the 16th oldest restaurant in the country.  That’s mind boggling when you think of how much longer parts of New England, Savannah, and Charleston have been inhabited and that the entire history of U.S. food service has to include millions of restaurants.  However, there’s a better stat that tells the story of why Golden Rule should be on your to-do list, the current pit-master has been there for almost 50 years.  When I heard that, the description of Golden Rule’s taste profile that had been eluding me suddenly became obvious.  It takes like history!

That may sound weird so let me explain.  With technology there are now so many ways to make excellent barbecue, and each has unique profiles.  Bright and creative chefs are developing new cooking methods, along with having a century of wisdom to draw from since Golden Rule got its start in 1891.  I imagine the only way you cooked it back then was low and slow, smoked over wood coals.  That’s still going on at the Irondale location today.  Their style of smoking meats produces something that’s truly unique, and there’s no guarantee the exact experience will endure beyond the current pit master.

The day of my visit was cold so the smoke pouring out of the chimney was especially obvious.  The smell hits you as soon as you step out of the car.  This place is a landmark, and the experience begins paying off even before you go inside.  Once inside, the pit is in plain view.  In fact, it’s the center of the entire restaurant.  At nearly eight feet long, it’ framed by bright red bricks and is well seasoned from decades of use.  The kitchen is right in front of the pit so you can watch everything being prepared.

The decor is classic barbecue restaurant, red vinyl seats, wood tables and walls, bar seating around the pit, and a huge mural of the original building on the main wall.  The clientele is mostly blue collar and seniors, both of which are signs of quality and longevity.  I saw a number of seniors bringing their parents in for lunch, which I always find heartwarming.

On to the food!  If you love bark, this is the place for you.  The pork is smoked low and slow so you get that lovely, dark char on the outside and the inside stays nice and moist.  I love that variety of texture and the smoky flavor that comes with their technique.

The sauce is a thick tomato base that, I believe, is mixed with vinegar to give it a tang and keep it from being too sweet.  It’s served on top of the meat so it’s nice and warm, which I like.  I paired it with onion rings, which were breaded, crunchy, and soft in the middle.  For some reason I thought they would be battered which is my favorite prep.  I did see a plate at the table beside me with fries that looked hand-cut and amazing!  I’ll try those next time.

The baked beans were different somehow from most places.  I got the impression they were simmered slowly for a lonnnnng time.  They were soft with onion and pork and some sort of sweetener I couldn’t quite identify, although I made a note that it could have been maple.  They flavor was well balanced and they came out piping hot.  The smell of the entire plate was barbecue heaven.

Since that visit I’ve had a chicken sandwich and potato salad.  The sandwich was smothered in sauce and was good for a quick meal.  The potato salad is what really got my attention.  The cut on the potatoes was really fine, almost like it had been pressed through a ricer, but it was still firm enough that the texture wasn’t like mashed potatoes.  It was a mayo base with mustard, finely chopped celery, pimentos, and great seasoning.

There’s a lot happening at Golden Rule and The Chase is excited to partner with them to deliver some really cool stuff.  Hang with us and see what’s next!

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