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Pruett's Bar-B-Q

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Around 2007 or 2008, I began doing work for a small and upcoming marketing agency in Gadsden.  It was just a few stay-at-home moms looking to make some extra money and keep their professional skills sharp during school hours.  They were so good at what they did that they grew extremely quickly and pretty much turned it into full-time work.  They were constantly busy and began handling the biggest clients that area had to offer; Etowah County Sheriff, the district attorney, Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit, Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden City Schools, and numerous lawyers and local businesses.  We were there a lot and were meeting tons a people.

During that stretch I went to Pruett’s for lunch one day.  When I walked into the dining room, I saw eight people at eight different tables that I recognized.  I’m fairly certain I could have walked up to any one of them, spoken their name, and they would have known who I was.  That’s the day I realized how much time I was actually spending in Gadsden.  We had fun and did a lot of cool things, but it’s funky when you start feeling like a local and you’re not even a resident.

The day I took my pictures was a rainy mess.  The dining room was packed and the waiting area was packed.  There were 20 people in front of me but only took 15 minutes for me to be seated.  They move a tremendous amount of people through.  Some may say it’s organized chaos but all the activity is orchestrated.  The coordination between the kitchen, dining room, and front of house is impressive.  It’s casual and fast paced but the food is made with love and care.

In full disclosure, Pruett’s isn’t strictly a barbecue restaurant.  It’s everything southern.  I’ve eaten here many times and it’s all been good, from meat-n-three style plates to sandwiches and fried catfish.  This trip was the first time I’d gone for the barbecue.  Sharing their parking lot is Lil’ Pruett’s, a double-sided drive-thru for some quick American fare such as burgers, chicken fingers, and barbecue sandwiches.  I’ve used it for a quick bite before but it was years ago.  I was ready to sit and enjoy the experience.

The pulled pork was a subtle pink color from a gentle smoking.  You can smell it when it hits the table.  The flavor is smoky and moist with a soft, juicy texture.  There is something very familiar about it, especially when combined with their sauce.  It’s a thin red with the slightest bit of heat that hits you in the middle of your tongue.  It’s just enough spice to perk up your taste buds.  It is a sweet sauce so I had to ration my portions, unlike I do with a lot of other sauces.

The baked beans were well seasoned with lots of onion, tomato, and finely chopped meat.  The spice was mild, which made for a good bite.  But the star for me was my second side, the sweet potato fluff, which is their take on sweet potato casserole.  It’s super smooth and flavored with shredded coconut, which gives it a bit of texture.  There’s a baked brown sugar crust on top with pecan pieces that adds a crunch and an additional layer of texture.  It’s a smart play because most savory, soft foods can become distasteful without a contrasting feel.  To me, this is the perfect side.  It’s southern comfort food and without being overly sweet.  I could eat a whole bowl for dinner or have a smaller serving for dessert.

The entire meal was very homey and comforting, just like the surroundings and the service.

Pruett’s is more than just a barbecue restaurant, it’s small-town America at its finest.  It’s the kind of place where you can learn everything about a community from a single lunch trip.  Everything good about living in a mid-size city is encapsulated in that dining room.  (In Alabama it’s a mid-size city.  In some states it’s a small town.)  I can wax on about how important establishments like this are to a city, how charming and comforting they are, but it’s more impactful to experience it.

Bonus points for:

Fountain drinks

Sauce on the table

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