It would be next to impossible to do a review of Big Bob Gibson BBQ in Decatur, Alabama without paying homage to the King. Simply put, Big Bob is the Patriarch of Alabama BBQ. A style that bridges the gap between the vinegar and mustard based sauces to the east with the tomato and molasses based sauces to the west.
Bob Gibson was a railroad man with a passion for BBQ. On weekends during the early 20's he'd entertain friends in his back yard at his make shift picnic tables. Wood planks nailed to Sycamore trees. Bob would crank out pork and chicken from his home made smoke pit for his guests with a unique twist. There was a white BBQ Sauce. It's not a cook in sauce but a finishing sauce. Cooked chicken would be dipped into it before serving. They call it "Original White Sauce" while others call it "Alabama White Sauce." It's both creamy and tangy and works well with white meats.
One thing's for certain, unless you live within a 50 mile (or so) radius of Decatur, you've likely never heard of it. Much less tried it.
Bob's grandson Don McLemore offered this recipe to the Food Network. He claims it's not the one used in the restaurant but it'll be close.
Bob opened his first store in 1925 and immediately grew out of it. Over the next number of years his restaurant would pop up all over Decatur like a game of Whack a Mole. Always moving to a larger location.
Chris Lilly was selling hospital scrubs when he met Amy McLemore, grand daughter of Big Bob. Before long they would marry and they'd become the 4th generation to join the team. With Chris aboard things would really start to grow for the Big Bob brand. Chris could sell and sell he did. First off, the commercial red sauce in the dining room would have to go. A year and a half hard work paid off in what has been judged "Best BBQ Sauce on the Planet." There would also be a competition BBQ team. A very successful BBQ team. Over the last decade or so they've been competing all over the country. The list of awards is staggering. You can't walk into the 6th Ave. location without tripping over a trophy. This type of advertising can not be bought.
From a back yard with chicken, pork, slaw and chips to a full menu, Big Bob Gibson's is now more than just two restaurants and a BBQ team. There's catering, books, DVD's and you don't make a TV show about BBQ without talking to Chris or Don. OLN and Chris even developed a show called "All Star BBQ Cook Off."
To say that everything was great would be like saying "The glass of water quenched my thirst." Obviously.
I will point out two major disappointments though.
First of all, the tea was lousy according to Mrs. Sippi. I don't like the stuff so I concur.
Secondly, they were out of ribs. I've had the ribs before on several occasions so it wasn't all that big a deal. They are truly magnificent though. As good as I've had. Them and Dreamland are definitely the best.
As for the food we did have, well........
We split a BBQ sandwich. It comes on the standard nondescript white bread bun with slaw only. No sauce. I added a little bit to my half. The sauce is a rich molasses and tomato sauce with a bit of boldness to it. The slaw was a simple vinegar slaw.
We also split a plate of brisket and chicken. The brisket is the smokiest I've had and I liked it above all others. You can see the smoke ring.
The chicken is just plain good but the white BBQ sauce for dipping makes it.
The beans are quite good with a definite jalapeno bent. Not so much hot but the flavour of the pepper really shines through.
The tater salad is very smooth and creamy. One of the best I've had at a BBQ joint.
For desert we had coconut cream pie. A delicious, (but not as good as Dixie Freeze) custard with meringue and coconut on top, pie.
You can find Big Bob Gibson at 1715 6th Avenue, SE and 2520 Danville Road, SW, Decatur, Alabama
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You can also visit them on the web. Check out the awards and recognition section.
Well, it's time to put my feet up on the coffee table. Til next time.