Monday, October 5, 2009

Saw's Barbecue (8/10) - 1008 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL 35209

Saw's Barbecue is situated along a quaint street in a Birmingham suburb of Homewood, Alabama.  Even before I stepped inside, I had a great feeling about the place.  I was immediately a fan of the logo, the facade of the restaurant, and the general sense of hospitality that could be felt while I was in the neighborhood.  I approached the register in the back of the restaurant, and I was initially unable to locate a menu anywhere.  Checking everywhere from the back wall to the top of the counter, one was nowhere to be found.  I was a little surprised to hear one of the workers in the kitchen, Blake, yell up to me asking me what I wanted to eat.  Without a menu in sight, I decided to instead turn the table back on him and ask him with what kind of wood Saw's smoked its meat.  "Green hickory.  Come back here and I'll show you."

Blake shared my excitement for barbecue.  I'm a little disappointed that my picture of him in front of Saw's open pit didn't come out too well, but at least one can still see his gold-capped teeth sparkling in his mouth.  Blake told me that he would take care of me and that if I took a seat, he'd bring out their best smoked meats and a couple of sides to compliment my meal.  He also said that Saw's had only been in business for a few months, and had previously operated as Broadway Barbecue.  As I headed off to my table I watched him finalize his preparation of spare ribs before putting them in Saw's smoker.  Blake poured mustard over the ribs immediately after applying a generous amount of dry rub to them.  I had previously read that mustard acts as a a great bonding agent during the smoke, allowing the dry rub to adhere to the meat during the entire process, while the flavor of the mustard almost entirely cooks out of the meat.  This was the first time I saw this method executed in a commercial setting.

I walked back to the dining room and took a seat next to two gentlemen who were seated directly next to each other so they could both watch SportsCenter.  Blake brought the two men smoked chicken stuffed potatoes, and I cordially asked whether I could take a picture of their food.  Smoked meat inside of a baked potato is a staple of Alabama barbecue.  I first saw it on Dale's Barbecue's menu, and now it is as customary as Alabama white barbecue sauce.  After I snapped my picture, Max (one seated to the left) curiously asked me why I wanted a picture of his potato.  I explained my barbecue mission and his excitement was obvious.  It was the closest experience I've ever had to talking to Bizarro 3rd Degree Berns.

Max went into rapid-fire question asking mode and hit on all the questions that I would have had in my head if roles had been reversed:
"What's been the best?"
"What's the worst?"
"Where have you been?"
"What kind of job do you have that affords you the luxury of driving around eating barbecue?"
"What provoked this stroke of genius to drive around eating barbecue?"
"What do you typically order?"

And then he asked an incredible question: "Have you created a logo for your trip?"
I headed outside to my car and came back with an official "3rd Degree Berns" black tank top.  Max was pumped.  Well at least until he realized I was not leaving it with him to keep.  The nine I have are spoken for and I'm considering ordering more for my most loyal fans.

Blake reappeared from the depths of the kitchen with a tray covered with pulled pork, spare ribs, smoked chicken, beans and mac & cheese.  I first tried the chicken due to my apprehension of the white Alabama barbecue sauce, as I definitely didn't want to leave with a bad taste in my mouth.  The chicken was soft, moist and succulent.  Even the sauce was really good.  I took the meat, white sauce and all, and piled it high on a piece of wide bread.  Delicious.  The pork had great flavor as well, and I also liked the more traditional barbecue sauce served at Saw's.  Both meats were cooked well and had a great consistency to them.

The ribs were also really good.  It took a good tug to pull the meat from the bone, and the combination of the subtle wood flavor coupled with the barbecue saw made each bite delicious.  The mac & cheese was average at best and the generous amount of pulled pork in the beans took them up a notch.

Before I left, Max told me that he worked down the street at Jim & Nick's Barbecue.  "Ask for Assum, pronounced 'Awesome', and he should be able to hook you up with a lot of the meats.  I definitely recommend the brisket platter and the smoked chicken."

I said goodbye to Blake, Max and his colleague, and headed west towards Jim & Nick's.

Saws on Urbanspoon

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Ratings and Reviews

In order to provide a consistent grading standard across each restaurant/region, I order a barbecue pork sandwich (and other meats/sides if a restaurant/region specializes in another specialty). In addition to comparing the quality of food, I will also take into consideration other intangibles (ambiance, atmosphere, service, authenticity, etc.) in my ratings as I deem appropriate.

Basically, a 10/10 represents an incredible meal, while a 6/10 score indicates a decent dining experience but a substantial number of dishes fell short of great. Lower scores indicate unpleasant experiences which I would most likely not even recommend to my worst enemy (Jonas Singer).

I reserve the right to continuously edit/update previous posts and to change rating scores as I see fit.