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Rusty's Bar-B-Q

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I learned about Rusty’s from one of those online articles that listed the best barbecue restaurants in Birmingham.  Most of the others I’d heard of, but not this one.  Another thing that appealed to me is I could get there without getting on a highway or interstate.  My wife and I have a date night once a week and leaving town makes me feel like I’m getting away.  Taking nothing but back roads through country that reminds me of the Smoky’s is extra relaxing.

Pulling up, Rusty’s has that classic look of a joint that was started with a dream and not much else.  It has simple roots and the aesthetic of the entire place is something I just dig.  Old school sign, burgundy vinyl seats, local memorabilia, and a single TV with sports playing.  It’s also just down the road from Barber’s Motorsports Museum, Bass Pro Shop, and Bucee’s, all of which make for a great stop on date night or an outing with the kids.

Recently I took a coworker to lunch at Rusty’s and, in his usual fashion, Rusty made his round through the dining room to check on everyone and thank them for coming.  I mentioned to him that I had recently started this website and handed him one of my cards.  He grabbed his drink, pulled up a chair, and rapped with us for a while.  We talked about how he navigated COVID, the challenges of running a restaurant, and barbecue theory.  It turns out Rusty went to culinary school, yet his philosophy on barbecue is simple.  He loves the old school way.  He said, “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.  I’m trying to perfect it.”

As for the food, I love the pulled pork.  It’s soft and moist and has a smoky note that’s tipped off by a visible smoke ring.  I almost always get the plate with baked beans and fries.  I get the sweet beans, which have pork in the mix and a real depth of flavor that makes them soooo good.  There’s also a spicy version if you want to step up the heat.  The menu has lots of other sides and you won’t be disappointed if you try something else.  I recommend the fried okra, deviled eggs, and mac n cheese.  My coworker polished off his greens and black-eyed peas.  Plates also come with rolls or jalapeno cornbread.  Get the cornbread.  The ribs are also amazing and you can add a couple bones to any plate but be careful.  If you try to pick it up by the bone the meat will fall completely off.  You can’t scrub a bone any cleaner than how those come out.  I also dig that they keep a trio of homemade sauces on the table.  Measuring how much sauce I get and when and of which kind is a big part of the joy of eating barbecue. For your sweet tooth, there’s a dessert fridge up front with a selection of pies that usually includes peanut butter.  It all looks homemade to me but I’m usually not fit for dessert by the time I finish my meal.

Rusty’s has almost everything I love in a barbecue joint.  The only thing missing is Coca Cola, but they do have Dr. Pepper, which is a strong runner-up.  In full disclosure, this is one of my two favorite places in the entire state.  Finding them really helped ignite my fire for exploring the barbecue universe and sharing it with others.  The combination of food, atmosphere, location, character, vibe, etc., hits the right note with me.  Plus, it’s easy to get to from whatever interstate you’re traveling on.  Look it up and make it part of your travel plans.  I know Bucee’s is famous for its brisket, but don’t let it distract you from the real barbecue star of Leeds.

Bonus points:

Order at the counter

Self-serve fountain drinks

Sauce on the table

TV with sports

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