Rib-It-Up in Birmingham, Ala.
Barbecue joints come in all shapes and sizes, but the great ones tend to have a few key themes: family owned and multi-generational, quirky, locally popular with regulars, serve at least one standout specialty that surprises, and ideally feature some kind of cartoon pig sign. Rib-It-Up hits all these buttons. All dinner plates are bargains and come with two sides, which are excellent across the board: fresh cole slaw with great texture, creamy potato salad (rich and really tastes of potatoes), fresh flavorful yams, and mac and cheese covered with a solid layer of melted cheese. Even fried okra, a dish I rarely order because it is often overcooked or worse, slimy and undercooked, is crispy and perfect. The signature “cracklins” cornbread, a muffin flecked with tiny bits of crunchy pork cracklings is excellent. It is the meat that steals the show, also good across the board, but with two surprising standouts. Rib tips are a barbecue insiders’ cut few places serve, and they are excellent. But the reason to drive almost any distance to Rib-It-Up is for the nation’s best barbecue pork sandwich, which may well be the best meal under $5 in existence. Neither pulled nor chopped, it is fat slices of juicy, tender, succulent, smoky pork, slathered in sauce. It is incredible, as satisfying as it is messy — do not get it at the drive-thru unless you want to ruin your car. This is the kind of dish that haunts the memory.
OMG! rated: Barbecue restaurants worth a pilgrimage
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