When I come to the South - the true South, I must have barbecue. It must be pork and I prefer the outside meat where it has gotten black and crusty from being hickory smoked. If they have already whomped (cut) the meat up so much that they can’t find the outside meat, the folks working at the place should at least know what it means when you say you want it “outside.”
I’ve lived in historic Williamsburg, Virginia for more than ten years now and love it, but I will never forget my first experience with what the folks there call, “The best barbecue around.” I went into the restaurant and was pleasantly surprised that this place served cold drinks in glass bottles and folks were fighting over places to sit.
I waited in line, made it to the counter and asked for “a barbecue plate outside.” The lady behind the counter smiled and told me, “We have a lot of picnic tables outside.” I tried to explain to her that I was talking about the meat, but she didn’t understand. She got the manager.
Trying to be understanding, I again asked the manager for a barbecue plate “outside.” The manager looked at the first lady who tried to help me and asked her, “Did you tell him about the picnic tables?”
This is why I come to Alabama for barbecue. Williamsburg, Virginia has some wonderful things to see and do, but do not go there for the barbecue. I’m sorry, I really am, but I have to tell the truth.
This led me to “chasing the pig.” I got a hot tip on a barbecue restaurant on wheels, so I headed out and about and found them in Oxford, Alabama. When I say "chasing the pig," I simply mean finding great barbecue (like catching the greased pig at the county fair).
The name of the place was Smoke-N-Hot BBQ and they move around a lot (literally). They were voted the best barbecue in Calhoun County for 2011 by the folks that do such things (Taste of Calhoun County), I knew I was in for a treat.
Finding the truck in my hometown of Oxford, Alabama at a jewelry/antique store and yard sale, I got excited as I parked the car.
Walking up to the trailer/restaurant, I was greeted by a nice lady inside who asked “What can I do for you darling?” It wasn’t a southern “darlin,” but a “dah-lin” in an English/Irish type of accent. I didn’t even need to taste the barbecue; I knew then that I was had.
Smoke-N-Hot BBQ bills itself as having Southern Style Barbecue with an Irish twist. After talking to the owners, it was easy to figure out why they call the barbecue that. Greg and Mary-Anne Stay, the owners, live in Coldwater, Alabama, but Mary-Anne is originally from Manchester, England and has a “twist of Irish” in her.
Greg is originally from the area and was sporting a NASCAR hat, as he pulled barbecue. I suppose Greg can translate from Southern to English/Irish both ways in the event of any communication problems. Wearing a NASCAR hat is necessary equipment for a reputable southern barbecue restaurateur in this part of Alabama.
It was another sign that I found a place serving barbecue worthy of being called “great” rather than “good.”
How does an English/Irish woman from “over there” find a good Southern fellow who wears a NASCAR hat?
I asked them.
They met in Baghdad, Iraq.
It made perfect sense to me.
Greg spent six years in Iraq working for a contractor doing everything from hauling fuel back and forth through places that none of us want to think about being to doing Safety, Health and Environmental work. Mary-Anne worked in operations helping Generals and big shots get things where they ought to be and keeping up with them when they got there.
They loved their work, but they are more than happy to call Alabama home now. I caught them on their business’ 1 year anniversary. I’m the tractor guy, I am lucky.
We talked and Mary-Anne told me it would take a few minutes because they didn’t cut/pull the pork until it was ordered. When she told me that, I got a Barney Fife grin on my face knowing that I had indeed “caught the pig.”
Mary-Anne recommended the jumbo barbecue sandwich and the Irish coleslaw.
That’s what I got, along with a Diet Coke. It’s the south; we will eat a pound a barbecue and justify it with a Diet Coke.
The “Irish Twist” in Greg and Mary-Anne’s rolling restaurant comes from some of Mary-Anne’s grandmother’s old family recipes. Some of these include the coleslaw, potato salad and smoked chicken noodle soup.
My order came out of the trailer window in a brown paper bag – another sign of the “good stuff.”
The barbecue sandwich was to die for; they gave me just the right amount of “outside meat” mixed with the inside meat. It was moist, but not anywhere close to soggy. The sauce was very good, but not overbearing. I watched Greg pull the meat, it was fresh. The Irish coleslaw made me want to do some sort of jig.
I’m pretty sure I’m part Irish.
Greg and Mary-Anne are both “clean freaks” – a quality that we all want in anybody serving us food. They are so clean that the county health department holds them up as an example. In their first year, Smoke-N-Hot has gotten nothing lower than “99” ratings from the health department.
That makes me feel real good.
As we talked, folks stopped by to get sacks of sandwiches, Styrofoam plates of barbecue, Boston Butts and hams. Everyone seemed to call each other by name, that’s nice – but that’s the way it is here in Alabama. Folks know you, remember you and when you serve great barbecue – they come back.
Here’s the catch. I asked Mary-Anne what their hours were and she said Wednesday to Sunday, about 10:30 to 4. “About?” I asked. Mary-Anne explained that they often run out before 4, so it is best to catch them early!
I asked Mary-Anne and Greg what their future plans were. They said they were going to keep on pulling pork and someday they hoped to open a rib place – a rib shack restaurant with the feel of an Irish pub. Greg said he wanted it to have a “flip-flop and tank-top” feel.
I like it.
An Irish pub playing Jimmy Buffet and serving the best barbecue around – It sounds like heaven to me.
Sign me up; I’ll be there for the grand opening. Until then, when I come home, I will chase the pig and find out which car lot, jewelry store, pawn shop or car wash I can find the Smoke-N-Hot BBQ trailer serving some of the best barbecue in the South.
You can find their schedule at their website, or “like” them on Facebook to literally follow them around town. As an Urbanspoon Prime Member, I’ve set them up a site there also – tell the world that you like “Southern Style Barbecue with an Irish Twist.”
While you’re at it, go like the “Ole Tractor Man” on Facebook to travel in my backseat as I ride around looking for great barbecue, good folks and interesting places.
Cranks My Tractor
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and being called "darling."