So, there’s one thing I should make clear before I start this review: I am not Barry Grass. This fact is significant for a number of reasons, but for the purposes of this review, it is worth noting because I, Natalie Hopper, am venturing into his territory: barbecue restaurants. I usually leave those reviews to Barry, the Kansas City native and barbecue aficionado, but since Bama Bar-B-Q and Grill is a whopping two minutes from my house, I decided to check it out for myself.
Bama Bar-B-Q occupies a small space in a strip mall that’s easy to overlook. When reviewer Amanda Shields told me where it was located, I couldn’t believe I didn’t already know about it since I’ve driven past that area at least twice a day for almost three years (I don’t actually know how long Bama BBQ has been in business, but I know they aren’t new). Once I got there, I was even more surprised, as there’s a sizeable sign over the front door. The rest of that strip mall is filled with a tobacco store, a gift shop, a Spanish-speaking church, Swen’s (yes, there’s another one), and Los Tarascos. I don’t smoke, buy many gifts, or speak Spanish, so I don’t frequent it’s parking lot or apparently pay much attention when I drive by. (Plus, I’ve never been terribly impressed by Swen’s and have a habit of going to Jalapeno’s when I want Mexican food.)
The interior of the restaurant looks like your standard, no frills Alabama sandwich shop. The dining area is fairly small with five booths lining the walls on either side and a row of tables down the middle. At the end of the room is the counter with a giant menu hanging above it—you know, the kind with the horizontal grooves that the removable red and black letters stick into. And, of course, the walls are covered in (neatly arranged) Alabama football paraphernalia ranging from the sixties to the present.
Bama Bar-B-Q bills itself a barbecue (obviously), burger, and smoked wings joint, but their menu also offers chicken (fried and grilled) plates and sandwiches, ribeye sandwiches, hamburger steak, and catfish with a standard array of sides: baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, fries, and (for a little extra) onion rings. Their barbecue options include a pork plate, a rib plate, and a pork sandwich.
I ordered a pork sandwich with baked beans and fries (I didn’t see the onion ring option until after I’d already ordered). My meal was certainly enjoyable, but nothing about it knocked my knickers off. The pork was plenty tender and tasty, and the sauce was good, but something about it reminded me of the barbecue you buy in the tub at the grocery store (Lloyds, I think it is)—maybe tomato paste-based? Again, it was good—just nothing special. The beans and fries followed suit and were just a little better than what I make (or what I would make if I cooked) at home. The potato salad and cole slaw would have probably both served as better indicators of the kitchen, but my distaste for both of them (along with okra) defy my Southern upbringing.
On the whole, my experience at Bama Bar-B-Q was a pleasant one. The place was beyond clean (and boasted a health rating of 100) and pretty empty when I arrived around 5:30 on a weeknight. The lady who took my order and brought me my food was perfectly friendly. I can’t say they have the best barbecue around, but that’s a tough award to win in this town. Personally, I’m thrilled to know that I can get a legitimate meal quickly and cheaply (I was in and out in 30 minutes for under $7) on my way home from campus (as opposed to the smattering of fast food options that litter my commute and, unlike Bama Bar-B-Q, are impossible to miss). I’m glad Amanda made me take notice of this place, and I’m certain I’ll be back to try the rest of their menu soon enough.