Saturday, April 10, 2010

On the Road: Southern BBQ - Part II

This week I returned to the South on business, knocking off another state I'd never been to - Alabama.  I flew into Birmingham on American Airlines' inaugural MIA-BHM direct flight and they had a nice reception waiting in Birmingham which was pretty cool.  After an afternoon of meetings, my sales rep, Bobby, and I were pretty hungry.  He lives in the Birmingham area and knows I love to eat so he took me to a place called Cajun Steamer.  Apparently the owners are originally from Louisiana and had moved to Alabama, missed the flavor of N'Awlins, and opened a restaurant.  I, for one, am thankful they did.

It was a perfect day for sitting outside so we did just that.  We started out with a full order of freshly boiled crawfish.  These little buggers were meaty and nice and spicy.  Sucking the heads really gave you a blast of flavor.  I think I've got my crawfish technique down to a dominant form of art now.  After the crawfish, we split an appetizer of fried green tomatoes that came topped with crab, corn, and a remoulade sauce.  This was a great dish.  The tomatoes were lightly fried in a cornmeal batter and the combination of the crab, corn, and sauce really worked well.

I was ready to tap out and call it quits, full on beer, crawfish, and the fried tomato app but Bobby suggested we finish off with an oyster po' boy.  I didn't think I could handle it but my manhood was questioned and I knew it would be 16 hours before I ate again so I ordered one.  It was a good call.  The oysters were lightly fried and flavorful and the bread was ultra soft.  Tomatoes and lettuce and a little remoulade made for a refreshingly filling sandwich.

The following day we had a couple of really good meetings with a stop at Hamburger Heaven thrown in between.  I was pumped when I saw a giant New England Patriots flag flying over the registers!  Bobby said the burgers tasted like you cooked 'em yourself on a grill in your backyard and he was right.  I had a nice and juicy bacon cheeseburger, its flavor enhanced by a "secret sauce" that had a nice spice to it.  The fries were kind of a whiff though and were dry and not crisp.

At the end of the day we ended up by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Bobby recommended we go for some BBQ.  "Hell yeah!" was my reply.

The UAB area was a pretty cool looking college town with tons of shops, bars, and restaurants.  "See the smoke?", Bobby asked, "That's where we're eating."  Smoke billowed from the building that housed Dreamland Bar-B-Que, a small chain that originated in Tuscaloosa and had made its' way down to Birmingham.  The restaurant was filled with the charm of license plates from all over the country, some with funny vanity tags like "HI OFCR".

 Crappy iPhone pic of the barbecue pit @ Dreamland Bar-B-Que
 A large wood-fired barbecue pit manned by two dudes is where the action went down.  Above the pit was a large neon sign that read, "No Farting".  Awesome!  I bet that request has been ignored often.  We decided to split a full rack o' ribs and a basket of fries.

 Soft white bread and spicy bbq sauce "amuse bouche" lol

Rack o' Ribs @ Dreamland Bar-B-Que
While we waited we were served some soft white bread along wtih some barbecue sauce for dipping.  The sauce was similar to a vinegar based North Carolina sauce but thickened a bit with a nice spicy heat to it.  The ribs and fries arrived a few minutes later.  These were spare ribs, not baby backs, with the rib tips and cartilage intact.  The meat was a bit more toothsome than the baby backs I'd had in Charlotte and Memphis on my last trip to the South and held strong to the bone.  Nevertheless, the sauce helped enhance the flavor of the smokey meat.  I'm really particular about my fries and these fries were awesome.  They came to the table piping hot and lightly seasoned.  The fries had a nicely crisped outside and tasted like they were cut fresh.  The basket was a big mutha of a basket and sadly we left a nice pile of them behind because we were too full.  The way I've been eating lately, that was probably a good thing.

I was really happy with my first trip to Alabama.  I met with a good group of customers that have a lot of potential and I got to chow down on some Cajun crawfish and good ol' fashioned barbecue.  You can't go wrong with that.  I also learned of the Robert Trent Jones Trail, a smattering of 19 or so golf courses spread throughout Alabama, most of which are no more than an hour and a half outside of Birmingham.  That's going on the "To Do" list for next trip.


jackolantern said...

"I didn't think I could handle it but my manhood was questioned"
and the no farting sign rule being broken...
lol you crack me up steve!

Maya Wardle said...

Nicee blog you have