Friday, October 4, 2013

Ken's Bar-B-Que

Non-Quest BBQ No 39 – Ken’s Bar-B-Que

Oneonta, Alabama

During my occasional travels, I try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I just really, really like that stuff ... 

There are BBQ places in places where your first reaction is: where the heck is that??! Oneonta, Alabama is one such place, you probably never knew even existed. This town of about 6500 inhabitants is the county seat of Blount County, which is situated about 30 miles north of Birmingham. Their greatest claim to fame is that there are three beautiful covered bridges within the county borders, which are actually still in use. There is an annual Covered Bridges festival in Oneonta, their High School Football Team is named the Redskins, the US Highway 231 runs through it and the official town motto is “A small city with big ideas”. That’s it. Oneonta, Alabama. Not quite the center of this planet’s gravity.
And if you type “BBQ, Oneonta” into Google Maps, the only result is a place called “O'so Good Bar B Que”, although I can vouch for the fact that there is at least one more – Ken’s Bar-B-Que, just adjacent to the WalMart, at this location since 1970.

I stumbled upon Ken’s Bar-B-Que by accident, being on the way of one of the covered bridges. As I do usually on my trips through the countryside, I had planned my food stops ahead, and based on the information that Google Maps gave me, I had chosen to visit the other place in Oneonta after I was done with the bridge. But since I already had driven for six hours that day, and thus was hungry as a lion, and Ken’s looked quite nice from the outside, I ditched that plan and decided to eat right here, right now.

Did I mention that I was really, really hungry? The combo platter on the menu, with pulled pork and smoked sausages, with fries, slaw and beans looked like it could satisfy my appetite, so I ordered it.
When it arrived, I almost regretted my bold decision, made out of an empty stomach, which is never a wise move. Man, was that a lot of food! And to be frank, I did not finish all of it, left the pickle, half of the slaw and the slice of toast behind. Together with some sweat tea, I paid about thirteen Dollars – I had less food and of lesser quality, too, for that kind of money before.

The pork appeared to be chopped, not pulled to me, but it was very tender and juicy, very lean and had a very subtle smoke aroma to it. Unfortunately, it also had the sauce already on it, which I really don’t like. What if the sauce does not taste good and I want to use ketchup instead? Am I supposed to wash the sauce off the meat with the sweat tea, or what? Yeah, right. Fortunately, this time the sauce was not too bad - a thick red concoction, with underlying sweetness and a bit of understated spiciness. But with pork that good, I wished they would serve a simple vinegar-pepper sauce. Also, there was no extra sauce on the table, just a bottle of Ketchup and some generic hot sauce. But when I ran out of sauce, I just substituted it with the sauce from the baked beans. Those came with big chunks of meat in it, and the sauce was not too sweet, as it is the case more often than I would care for. Definitely, they take their sides seriously. That is also true for the slaw, which came in a light sour crème dressing with only some pepper and salt. It tasted very fresh and the cabbage was also very crunchy. Too bad that at the end of the meal, I did not have any capacity left to gobble it all up.
That was certainly partly the fault of the smoked sausage. Also with a very subtle smoke aroma, and mildly spicy, they undoubtedly brought more calories from fat with them then the lean pork. But they were oh so good that I just could not stop myself and switch to the unquestionably more healthy cabbage.
Well, the fries were just that – regular fries.

The dining room is decorated with mostly Tide paraphernalia, although I also saw a couple small signs from the other team bashfully hidden in a corner. They have two lamps hanging over the cash register in the form of futuristic planes – very 1950s, very strange, very quirky. I like those kinds of details. There are also tiles in the ceiling, which display words like “Bless You” in neon colors. The atmosphere is very homey and the staff is extremely nice and friendly.
For a place that is not even on the map, Ken’s Bar-B-Que in Oneonta serves a very high quality BBQ with very generous portions for a reasonable price in a very nice setting. I just might need to write to the Google folks, to alert them to their grave mistake. 


  1. Ken's has only been in Blount County about a year, the other location in Tarrent was est. 1970. From a Blount Countian

  2. I moved from AL almost 10yrs ago and still have yet to find Kens BBQ quality food in NC or FL.

  3. Ken's is located at 4817 Pinson Valley Pkwy, Birmingham, AL 35215 which is less than 1 mile south of the City of Pinson. You need to drive a little further north than Tarrant if you're coming off I-59 to find Ken's. It's a lot smaller of a place than the Oneonta location, but don't let that stop you from going in. It's breakfast is the best around, and the lunch and dinner is just as good as Oneonta. Great quality food, outstanding service!