Friday, September 14, 2012

Big Cove BBQ

Quest Log No 36 – Big Cove BBQ
Huntsville, Madison County

The King died because he stuffed himself with Burgers, Fries and Cherry Cola. Coming from Tupelo, and eventually living in Memphis, this was a somewhat strange choice – had he stuck with good old southern style BBQ instead of the junk food (and pills), he might still perform in Vegas. Because BBQ done right is not only soul food, but it is health food as well.

When you enter Big Cove BBQ, one of the first things you will notice is the life-sized cardboard cut-out of Elvis in his glorious years, standing in one of the corners. Whether he was placed there to remind the customers of the dangers of an unhealthy diet, or to serve as a tribute to the southern way of live, or as a guardian angel for all that is old style, I do not know. But it works – this place is as southern, old style and healthy as the young Elvis, straight out of Tupelo, once was.

You order at a small hole-in-the-wall counter just opposite the entrance door. The menu is of the k.i.s.s. variety – keep it simple, stupid. Pulled pork sandwiches and plates, stuffed baked potatoes, slaw, baked beans … nothing fancy here, just good old soul food.
The dining room has about half a dozen tables, decorated with neat red-and-white-checkered plastic table cloths. The chairs are of the usual black-metal with faux black leather seats variety. The walls are covered with wooden panels, with some old pictures, news paper articles, and the like as decoration. There is a gumball machine in one corner, and some pig figurines placed in a shelf next to the cooler that holds the soda cans.
Sitting there, it felt almost like sitting in someone’s living room – very cozy and homey, and spot clean. That feeling was certainly amplified by the extreme nice and attentive attitude of the staff – it never hurts to be polite, friendly and considerate.
There is also a patio with more tables in the back, but I doubt that this is used very often. Most folks seem to come here for take-out food and those who stay seem to be regulars. Well, given that this place is kind of hidden on a by-road behind a gargantuan WalMart SuperCenter, not very many outsiders will ever find this BBQ.
This is a crying shame, because apart from the old style atmosphere, they serve a righteous BBQ!

As usual, I had the pulled pork plate – which, for not even eight and a half Dollars including free refills for my sweet tea, ended up to be a killer deal. Not only was the portion enormous, but also the quality was excellent.
The pork was succulent and tender, very lean and with a good smoke aroma. They have two sauces, one thick red mild one that is of the common sweet’n’smokey taste. Nothing wrong with that, but this is the sort of BBQ sauce the WalMart carries, too.
But the hot sauce there is of a different breed. It is actually more orange then red, which should give you the first hint of its character. Yes, it is hot. My guess is a lot of cayenne pepper, some ground jalapenos, and a bit of black pepper mixed into a base of tomato sauce. First, it took my breath away, but after the third bite or so, I actually liked the tingling on my tongue that put a different twist on the smoky flavor of the pork.
The plate also came with three sides. The potato salad was, hands down, one of the best I ever had in a BBQ joint. Slightly sour, with big bites of potato, and a well rounded aroma. Superb!
The slaw was made with a yoghurt/sour crème based sauce and tasted very fresh and light. Actually, I could taste the cabbage, which is not always the case because most slaws are just smothered with mayonnaise and/or sugar and vinegar. Not so here, the flavor was very well balanced between a slight sourness, the freshness of the sauce and the aroma of the cabbage. Also, I like it a lot if the cabbage pieces are ‘bite sized’ – that means not shredded into oblivion, but also not cut so coarsely as to leave the leafs almost intact. This slaw had the ‘right’ size – which is hard to describe and certainly varies from person to person. But it worked for me.
The baked beans on the other hand were a bit bland, way too sweet for my taste. But I liked that they were enriched with green bell pepper, which gave it a little unexpected crunch.
Also part of the plate were two buns, which I did not touch – I just was full to the brim, it was a massive meal even without the buns.

The only negative experience there was that they have real nice T-Shirts for sale, with a guitar playing pig on it, but they were sold out of the 2XL size. Well, judging from the crowd you usually see eating at those places, this should be the most popular size in North Alabama. The skinny types ain’t into southern soul food that much, I guess.
Too bad, I would have proudly worn their T-Shirt, to let everybody know that I am now a fan of their BBQ. So, I guess that I have to return there once in a while to check on their T-Shirt situation – looking forward to it.


  1. Great service and HUGE portion sizes. I would stop here more often but their hours are limited. Their bbq is very good, but not great.

  2. Wheres the smoke??? Oh yeah its a couple of hickory sticks burning in a 5 gallon pale out back! Like most so called "BBQ" places these days! Fake!

  3. I like your list but I would rank Big Cove higher than no.6, and Greenbrier a good deal lower than no.5. Big Cove is my favorite, but eight of your top ten are also very good too!