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Promise Land BBQ

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What was the first thought that came to your mind when you read that word?  More than likely it was about the Woodstock Music Festival that took place in New York state in August of 1969.  400,000 people showed up for a three-day concert that featured some of the biggest names in Rock n Roll history, including Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix.  It was rainy, messy, and uncomfortable, and the memory of attending may have been better than actually being there.  The stories would be unbeatable!

The original Woodstock was before my time, but I had a high school buddy and college roommate who went to the 25th anniversary Woodstock in 1994.  His experience was epic and I loved hearing his stories, but I’m glad I wasn’t there.  Shout out to Chuck Jones!  Those were a fabulous few months living together on campus and I still have your painting that was given as a wedding gift.

Alabama has its own Woodstock.  It’s not a music festival, but a little town/spot in the road just west of Bessemer.  It probably gets lumped in with West Blocton as, I believe, that’s where their teenage residents go to high school.  The tip is if you go looking for it, be attentive or you might miss it.  Why would you look for Woodstock, AL, you may ask?  There’s one tasty reason, Promise Land BBQ!

I learned about Promise Land from the article, The Alabama Barbecue Bucket List.  This is the article that inspired me to travel the state and eat barbecue, specifically at each joint on the list.  It looks every bit the part of a roadside barbecue stand, small white building, hand painted sign, carry-out only with a few picnic tables under a metal carport.  It definitely has that start-up look, but there’s a charm to it.  Barbecue started as the simple man’s food, and this place reflects those humble roots and the spirit of American entrepreneurship.  No matter how endearing a place might look, it doesn’t survive unless the food is good.

The pork is finely chopped and smothered in a sweet, slightly tangy and mildly spiced sauce that lets the flavor of the meat come through.  The small chop makes it neat and easy to eat, especially if you choose to eat in your car.  I really appreciate that type of thoughtfulness from a carry-out joint.  You also get a little bit of crunch from the bark and a little funk from the sauce.  I’m not sure what creates that unless it’s anchovies or something similar.  It is very mild so the meat’s smoky notes still come through.  The sauce is the consistency of a puree so it clings to the meat without being sticky.

The mac n cheese is a soft macaroni noodle, baked firm with a crispy crust on top.  It delivers massive cheese flavor and with a stringy pull from all the rich cheddar on display with every bite.  The baked beans are sweet with a touch of spice that hits the front of your tongue.  This is a cash-only business so come prepared with the green stuff, although you won’t need much of it. The pork plate with two sides and bread is about $10 and that includes a drink.  I couldn’t get a recommendation on sides because they said everything is good.  It comes wrapped tightly in a Styrofoam tray so it stays hot and travels neatly.  Everything was thoughtfully plated and felt intentional, keeping their clientele in mind.

Near the end of his set at Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix played what’s known as “Woodstock Improvisation.”  It’s a wild mix of music styles and techniques that put his guitar mastery in full view.  It really doesn’t have anything to do with Promise Land, other than the Woodstock name.  But let that name seep into your memory banks so you remember this little barbecue joint.

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