Mayonnaise probably isn't the first ingredient you think of when you hear the words "barbecue sauce." It might even be the last thing that crosses your mind (especially if you're not a coleslaw-on-pulled-pork kind of person). Yet the creamy condiment is, in fact, the main ingredient in Alabama white barbecue sauce, a tangy and sweet blanket for slowly grilled chicken.
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Suddenly there are plenty of youthful, trendy food businesses popping up around Birmingham. The gourmet popsicles at Steel City Pops are for real. Their flavors are made from scratch using mostly local produce or ingredients, sugar, water, and/or local dairy. They carry between 20 and 25 flavors at any one time, and the creamy paletas are separated from the icey paletas in separate freezers, just like in traditional Mexican paleterias. Their Southern inspired flavors are truly noteworthy.
Located in an imposing limestone faced Palladian style building, Bottega actually houses two restaurants. One offers a more sophisticated evening experience, and the other is a casual cafe featuring wood-fired pizzas. Socializing and drinks were the reason for most of my cafe visits, and I never quite bonded with the pizza. They were Zagat's recent pick for the "50 States, 50 Pizzas" guide, which was a reminder to give them another look.
"Most folks raised in North Alabama have firmly believed since childhood that barbecue sauce is white," writes pit master Chris Lilly in Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, of the legendary barbecue joint. Barbecue chicken with white sauce is the area's regional specialty. While visiting Birmingham, I drove about an hour north to Decatur to taste the classic dish at its source. Back in the city, I tried BBQ chicken at five different restaurants, in a search for the best.
Grapico, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1914, moved to Alabama in 1917 and has been produced there since. Though flavored artificially, the soda skyrocketed to early fame with advertisements that implied that it contained real grape juice (complaints from real grape-juice vendors led to eventual charges from the Federal Trade Commission that forced Grapico vendors to adjust their advertising). Today, the soda enjoys a cult following among Alabamians almost equivalent to that of Cheerwine in the Carolinas.
The culture of Mobile revolves around beautifully cooked seafood. This is a corner of the country where they're pumping out plump wild shrimp, shucking sweet oysters, frying up soft-shell crab, and serving oh-so-many other creatures of the briny deep. Here's where to eat them and a little slideshow teaser to get your mouth watering.
During every home football game, a pop-up BBQ joint known as Big Bad Wolves' BBQ opens on University Boulevard, right down the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium. Everyone is just waiting all year for these BBQ nachos.
A look into the maddening world of competition barbecue, where great friends balance out a "sport" where even the best of the best are never guaranteed success.
Lane Cake: now there's a tall southern belle of a layer cake. It's filled with coconut, chopped fruit and nuts, and a generous serving of whiskey or brandy, and topped off with a snowy range of fluffy frosting.
In the event of a nuclear disaster, zombies taking over the planet, or an industrial food collapse, you'd want to be friends with the folks in this video. This short film is a meditation on survival and the beauty of doing things that aren't necessary with such conventions as matches and lighters. After wading in the river in Andalusia, Alabama, we cooked Corbicula Clams over a homemade fire.
Writing last week about the passing of Gus Koutroulakis, the owner of Pete's Famous Hot Dogs in Birmingham, got me thinking about Pete's longtime rival Gus's, now the lone surviving old-school Greek hot dog place in downtown Birmingham.
If, like me, you enjoy dunking your food, then the French Dip sandwich with its side of beefy jus is right up your alley. The version at Regina's Kitchen ($7.95) is a solid incarnation. The roast beef is sliced paper thin and sits atop a layer of melted, tangy provolone cheese. A few pieces of purple onion add a nice crunch, but flavor-wise the sandwich is entirely beef (which makes sense considering you're dipping a pile of roast beef in a container of beef broth).
Pete's hot dog is strikingly different from every other Southern dog. It's one of those places where you walk in and just KNOW it's going to be awesome. It's a tiny place with a stainless steel counter and room for maybe six people at the most. Owner Gus Koutroulakis has been at the helm, cooking dogs on the tiny griddle from the same spot in the front window, since 1948.
So far, we've told you about the East Coast contenders. Now it's time to move down South. Before this journey, the South was a bit of a mystery to us in terms of hot dogs. I had a vague notion of slaw dogs being pretty good, but the region is more often than not overlooked in the hot dog media.The reality is that hot dogs are everywhere below the Mason-Dixon line, as much or more so than other areas considered to be the epicenters of hot doggery. Here are our 16 favorites.
Head to The Hangout to get a great view of the ocean, a chance to hang out on the beach, listen to local musicians, and eat a large, house special burger geared for burger lovers like you and me.
As part of Southern Foodways Alliance's oral history project, they interviewed Dr. Franklin Penn, co-owner of C. F. Penn Hamburgers in Decatur, Alabama, maker of slug burgers (burgers made of beef and filler). Penn's grandfather opened the restaurant in...
Callaghan's Irish Social Club makes juicy, crusty pub burgers topped with generous amounts of vegetation on grilled and buttered sesame seed buns. It's so good, you'll dream about it.
I'll be honest, before I talked to David Wright and Corey Hinkel, I would have bet my life that you couldn't find something like the artisan dairy operation they run in a place like Northeast Alabama. But a conversation last week with the duo shattered my Northerner-biased expectations and has given me a mind to visit the Heart of Dixie. They're churning out Gouda, Cheddar, Abodance, and an Asiago cheese they call Wanda.
Wow. The first of the community reviews has started to come in. This one from Alabama — a region we've lacked intel on. Thanks, Charles! —AK Salvatore's 1594 Montgomery Highway, Hoover AL 35226 (map); 205-823-7206; salvatorespizzeria.com Pizza Style: Neapolitan and Sicilian Oven Type: Gas Price: Medium cheese, $10.95 Being born and raised in Brooklyn, wherever I go, I look for the closest thing I can find to my back-home staple, New York pizza. While I have not lived there in 30 years (military, then retirement here) I always have the yearning for that little slice of home, so to speak....
A dancing Mexican robot that sounds like a Cylon? ... Yeaaah, um. Not gonna lie though, I'd totally eat there. Video, after the jump....