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Rodney Scott's BBQ

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If you’re not familiar with Rodney Scott, he won a James Beard Award for cooking whole hog barbecue out of his parent’s South Carolina gas station.  It’s really an unheard-of achievement that probably has him in a class all by himself.  There’s a fascinating series on Netflix called Chef’s Table: BBQ and one of the episodes is about Rodney.  He talks about selecting and cutting his own trees to give his barbecue the exact flavor he wants.  How does someone do that?  I understand that each hardwood produces a unique smoke flavor which is different from the wood from a fruit tree.  The meat takes on the flavor and smell of whatever wood is used.  But how does he know that this oak tree, for example, will produce better flavor than that oak tree.  I would love to spend an afternoon with him while he walks through the woods selecting trees.  That would be an amazing conversation.

Whole hog barbecue is different from what’s traditionally done in Alabama.  The preferred cut of meat in Alabama is pork shoulder, also called boston butt.  It receives any number of preparations and, when done right, you can grab the shoulder blade and pull it from the meat clean as a whistle.  With whole hog barbecue you take half a hog that’s been cut snout to tail and cook the entire half as one piece.  You then pull all the meat apart, chop it up, and mix it all together so you get bits of every part of the pig.  As with chicken and other animals, each cut has its own qualities.  Whole hog barbecue lets you experience the entire pig in one bite.

With Rodney’s James Beard Award came lots of recognition and thanks to some visionary business men and exceptional supporting chefs, Rodney Scott’s BBQ has three locations in Birmingham, one in Charleston, one in Atlanta, and another coming to Nashville.  This guy is what America is all about.  He was a poor kid coming out of high school with no plans for a future other than scratching out an existence cooking barbecue in a gas station.  Now, because he committed himself to being the best he could at what he did, a future barbecue empire is building.

Of course, you have to try the pork.  That’s obvious.  Don’t worry about whether your sides will be good or not.  Everything is gourmet so choose whatever you want.  For me, the baked beans are as good as any in Alabama.  But there are two items on the menu that I find mind blowing, the smoked turkey and the collard greens.  My wife and I once drove an hour each way for three consecutive weekends to have the smoked turkey and white sauce.  Very few times have I ever eaten anything that left me puzzled and euphoric at the same time.  That’s what this turkey and white sauce did to me and still does to me.  It’s hard to ignore the pork but the turkey does that to me.  Dipped in that white sauce it is indescribable!  The collard greens are the same way.  I am not a greens lover.  In fact, this is the only place I have ever ordered collard greens from.  They have a meaty taste and they’re cut larger which gives them a meatier texture.  If you’re not a greens eater either, ask for a sample.  These may change your mind.

Go to the location downtown because there’s a glass wall where you can see the smokers and the pit masters in action.  I’ve been there before when they were just putting half a hog on and I’ve also seen them put 30 chickens on at one time.  It’s a cool experience.  And big props to Rodney for opening the downtown location in a neighborhood that needed a little revitalizing.  It’s absolutely safe to go as the hip Avondale area is just a few blocks away and it is always hopping.  Rodney Scott’s is in what may have been an old service station or garage.  It has a couple of bay doors that they roll up on beautiful evenings that makes the dining room airy and open.  It’s a modest place especially for someone who is becoming a food celebrity, but it’s what a barbecue joint should be.  Make whatever detour is necessary because this place lives up to the hype.

Order at the counter

Coke products

Self-serve fountain drinks

Sauce on the table

TV with sports

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