Moe's Original BBQ
Started by folks from Alabama, this chain also has outposts in North Carolina, Georgia, and Colorado. Their location near downtown Birmingham serves several local beers on tap and feels more like a sports bar than a BBQ joint.
The chicken is bathed in a spicy red barbecue sauce and then finished with a white sauce. The meat was so moist that I suspected it wasn't smoked at all, but the smokers on the premises indicated otherwise. The cornbread is also notable—it's slightly sweet (an oddity in Alabama) and flecked with bits of jalapeño. Moe's also sells extraordinarily creamy banana pudding for dessert.
Miss Myra's Pit Bar-B-Q
If you can only go to one barbecue joint in Birmingham, I recommend Miss Myra's. It feels like you're entering a time warp as you descend from the hilltop Summit Mall and park outside this humble hole-in-the-wall. Hickory wood is stacked against the restaurant's exterior while the interior is decorated with University of Alabama football memorabilia. Regulars stop in to chat with the employees and pick up take out dinners for their families.
The all white meat barbecue chicken had a crispy, almost lacquered skin, and the flesh stayed moist despite its aggressive smoke flavor. The sauce's vinegar component was less assertive than at Big Bob Gibson. The side of salty string beans cooked with bacon were so soft that they simply dissolved after one bite.
Miss Myra's Pit Bar-B-Q: 3278 Cahaba Heights Rd Vestavia Hills, AL (a href="http://nearme.seriouseats.com/venue/miss-myras-bbq">Map); 205-967-6004
Barbecue chicken is usually also available in sandwich form. Head to Saw's BBQ if the meat's texture your first priority. Served on a soft bun, the pulled chicken was incredibly moist but lacked much smoke flavor. The sandwich was finished with pickle slices and plenty of sweet white sauce flavored with black pepper ground on the finer side.
Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q
This restaurant has operated in the blue-collar town of Bessemer, just outside Birmingham, since the 1950's. A barbecue pit covered in ribs and chickens greets you as soon as you enter. But when my order arrived, there was no white sauce to be found. Instead, the dark meat chicken arrived floating in a pool of runny tomato-based sauce with an aggressive vinegar flavor. Their bread of choice is Texas toast, and it was the only place that served fried okra as a side.
Although this barbecue is based in Tuscaloosa, not far from of Birmingham, there was no white sauce available. My chicken sandwich arrived somewhat finely shredded and garnished gingerly with a spicy, vinegar-based sauce. Bottles of sauces were served on the side, and, honestly, it could have used more sauce for moisture. I appreciated the salty smokiness of the meat, but it was a bit on the dry side.