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Mary' Pit Bar-B-Que

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By this review, you may be familiar with Lamarr Chaplin.  He’s a coworker turned close friend.  We actually saved each other’s sanity during some rough years at our day jobs, endearing ourselves to one another.  He’s also a foodie and enjoys a good road trip, especially if there’s barbecue somewhere in the adventure.  A native of Huntsville, he has brought some great recommendations on joints in north Alabama.  For this review, we honor his late mother, whose favorite barbecue restaurant was Mary’s Pit Bar-B-Que.  With two Chaplins contributing to my obsession, or dysfunction, how could I not check this place out?

First of all, Mary’s has the classic look of a small, rural joint that has been around a loooonnng time.  It looks more like a shed than a restaurant, sitting along the side of a two-lane country road in Gurley.  It’s a small brick building with a hand-painted sign hanging above a pallet that displays their hours.  It also contains a warning that they close early if they sell out, so it’s that kind of place.  It’s nestled in a picturesque lot, with picnic tables shaded by giant, old hardwoods.  A creek runs close by and would have provided lovely background noise if we hadn’t been in such a dry summer.  Instead, our conversation filled the airways.  I’m sure everyone that unknowingly didn’t sit near us is grateful.

The inside is 100% rustic!  It’s not much bigger than an office hallway, with a counter along the lefthand wall and four permanent stools.  Those are made of Schedule 40 black steel pipe for a industrial, vintage look that fits well with the tongue and groove boards covering the rest of the interior.  To make it even more unique, signatures cover practically every inch of the interior walls.  Patrons have been doing this for years, maybe even decades, and you’re welcome to join in so long as you keep it clean.  It’s fun to check out the greetings others have left while waiting on your order.

Sticking to tradition, we ordered completely different things then split them to sample most of the menu.  I ordered my usual of pulled pork and baked beans and added the potato salad today.  The pork was moist and tender with a good smoke flavor.  It had a nice chew but there was a lot of fat left because of the cook and the way it was pulled apart.  Pork fat isn’t my thing and it was easy enough to pick around, although it can be unsightly.  If you like the fat left in, this style will ring your bell.  It’s served with the sauce on the side, a thick, rich red sauce that’s lightly spiced and with an earthy flavor.  Their hot sauce is a vinegar base that does deliver some heat.  We also had the white sauce, which both of us felt was more like Caesar dressing than a traditional Alabama white sauce.

Lamarr’s went with smoked chicken, which I found to be dry and somewhat bland.  We still enjoyed it with a topping of red sauce, which I think would go well on everything.  The potato salad has a very fine chop on the potatoes, making it very creamy.  It’s a mayo blend incorporating onion, relish, and mustard.  I’m beginning to think creamy potato salads, that aren’t far off from straight up mashed potatoes, is a North Alabama thing.  The baked beans were nice, soft, rich, and earthy.  The mac n cheese is a firm noodle in a smooth cheese blend with good flavor.  The green beans were soft, seasoned well with salt and pepper, and delivered the meaty taste you expect from Southern vegetables.

This trip was a lot more fun that it reads.  Lamarr and I find humor in so many mundane things, and we witnessed lots of the mundane on this run.  There's so much backstory and I simply don't know how to condense everything that went down. Kind of a “you had to be there” experience as far as the goofiness of what went on around us.  The fun of getting to little joints like this is a big part of the chase and Mary's delivers personality, way beyond expectations.

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