Friday, July 27, 2012

Little Paul's Gibson Barbecue

Quest Log No 34 – Little Paul’s Gibson Barbecue
Huntsville, Madison County

There are some strange places where you can set up shop for a BBQ restaurant. A former jail might qualify as mildly funny, some old barn on a country road in the middle of nowhere would probably not raise even one eyebrow, and an airport concourse could even be seen as innovative.
But across the street from a hospital emergency bay? That has to be the most morbid place ever. Imagine, sitting there, munching on your pork sandwich while a steady stream of ambulances, with lights flashing and all, disappear into the big grey building on the other side. And then, imagine the BBQ place crowded with hospital people in their green uniforms, some even still with those paper hair caps and masks on. Scrubs meets pulled pork.

Of course, on the other hand it is a very clever move to have a BBQ place at such a place - who needs soul food more than nurses, doctors, surgeons, and relatives of the patients? My guess is that Little Paul’s Gibson Barbecue in Huntsville, across the street from Huntsville Hospital’s emergency bay, is a gold mine.
And the equally clever move to incorporate “Gibson” into the name of the restaurant will not hurt business either. After all, everybody knows about the Gibsons here in the Tennessee Valley – they are for BBQ what the Kardashians are for the reality show industry.

Well, if I wanted to be cynical, it would be easy to say that this place combines a live reality show with a unique dining experience – like a TV diner, but only real and with better food.
But since I am not cynical, only sarcastic at times, this is not how I would describe the place. Actually, the interior is quite nice; it has a certain 1950s charm with tables covered with black-and-white checkered cloths, shelves full of quirky BBQ and food related stuff, fans on the ceiling and a tiny cross above the counter.
At this counter, you order from the quite extensive menu, pay and receive a sign with a number on it. Not that the place is actually so big that the servers would be lost without this numbering system for the orders. It has seating for about thirty customers, but I guess when it is really hectic during the lunch break of the emergency room people, it can help.
The food is then brought to your table – in our case, we only had to wait a couple of minutes, but we were there after the typical lunch time.

As usual, I had a (large) pork plate with potato salad and (vinegar) slaw. My wife had a two meat plate with brisket and chicken and baked beans and creamy slaw as sides. The plates come with a cornbread muffin and a tiny cup of sauce. At the table, there is a different sauce in a big bottle, and of course ketchup and some kind of hot sauce.

The pulled pork had a good smoky taste, and it was very tender. I found a few strands of fat in it, but not to an extend that it bothered me much. On the other hand, the pork was a bit on the dry side, so I was grateful that my wife relinquished her cup of sauce to me.
The sauce that came with the plate was a very simple mixture of vinegar, water and (cayenne) pepper. Not very spicy, but with some delightful kick nonetheless. And sour. But I actually like it that way, and it went very well with the smoky aroma of the pork.
The potato salad there is listed as “mustard potato salad”, which describes the flavor you get quite well. Also on the sour side, smothered in a mustard infused mayonnaise, I enjoyed it very much. The vinegar slaw, however, was a bit watery and of the sweet-and-sour variety. Not bad, but also not top notch. On the other hand, a third component that was “just sour” would have been probably too much, and so it was a welcomed diversification.

I am not a big fan of cornbread, but my wife is, and she assured me that the cornbread muffin that I traded for her sauce was excellent. And so was the chicken – tender and very flavorful, clearly the best meat of the three we had on our plates. Because the brisket, while also tasting very good, was a bit dry and without the layers of fat inside would not have been easy to chow. Of course, she could have poured the tiny cup of white sauce that came with the chicken over it – but that would have been pure barbarism. Plus, the white sauce was not so special, but merely okay. It needs the very flavorful chicken to shine, not the other way around.
The baked beans were a bit sticky and very thick – a clear sign that they had been sitting in the pot for more than just a couple of hours. But the taste was great, not very sweet but savory, without cinnamon but with some strands of meat in it.
The creamy slaw was crunchy and had a very good flavor.

Together with sweet tea for both of us, this meal for two cost us a bit over twenty-six Dollars. Not exactly cheap, but the food was very good, although not really outstanding. We did see some hospital personnel in the restaurant during our time there, but there was no ambulance that disturbed our meal with its sirens. And quite frankly, I do not believe the emergency room is something I ever want to connect with BBQ in my mind – let alone in reality.

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