That being said, here's a recap of last week's trip, to Auburn, Alabama, for the wedding of a good college friend. It was a whirlwind visit - we left at 4am on Saturday and were back in our own beds on Sunday night - but there was enough time to visit with friends, enjoy a bit of Alabama sunshine and check out a few local eateries.
We would have been remiss had we not made time in our trip 'down South' to enjoy a bit of barbecue. I always look for local hotspots when we're eating on the road and Mike and Ed's Bar-B-Q, in downtown Auburn, boasted a college crowd and a packed parking lot that convinced me it would be a good choice. It's a no-frills restaurant, but sometimes that's just what you need - especially when it comes to barbecue.
As you'd expect, the menu is pretty meat-heavy; they offer BBQ chicken, ribs, pork, buffalo wings and breaded chicken strips. Even the 'Lite Special' is a Chef Salad with your choice of two meats (BBQ Pork, Smoked Turkey or Fried Chicken Strips, in case you're curious)! They serve tooth-achingly sweet tea out of a 40 gallon trash can, and offer an array of sides - from Brunswick Stew and cole slaw, to 'Curley' fries and corn-on-the-cob.
Ignoring their vaguely disconcerting mascot (an adorable, anthropomorphic pig in a bow tie and chef's toque) I ordered the shredded pork plate and Matt, never a great fan of BBQ, chose a chicken finger platter with fries and cole slaw. Both entrees were served with a few fluffy slices of generic white bread (which we didn't eat) and Matt's chicken fingers came with 'special dipping sauce'. For the BBQ, I had a choice of three sauces - mild, hot or hickory - and chose the latter, based on a recommendation from our server.
The shredded pork was tender and smoky, and the hickory sauce delightfully tangy and slightly sweet - just the way I like it. I was skeptical about Matt's choice (chicken tenders from a BBQ joint?) but the meat was incredibly moist, and the breading crisp and not too greasy. It's peppery flavor distinguished it from the usual breaded chicken but, to be honest, the star of the whole meal was the 'special dipping sauce.' I've always wished for a palate sensitive enough to ferret out ingredients from a single taste, but sadly I gave up after detecting only mayonnaise, pepper, garlic powder, and possibly Tabasco (there were hints of vinegar and mustard, but I couldn't be sure). I spilled a bit on our menu by accident and joked with Matt that I would have to bring it home for analysis!
|Note the sample of 'special' sauce on the top of the menu|
Overall, Mike and Ed's offers good value (their regular pork sandwich is less than $3) and a lot of flavor. You can tell they're a college-supported establishment - they offer tailgating specials, advertise fraternity and sorority package deals, and almost every other patron was decked out in Auburn gear - but they also cater private events. There are a few local franchises, so you're not limited to Auburn if you're craving hickory smoked meats. For those outside Alabama, they also do smoked hams and turkey breast to order - but they don't have a website so tracking these down might be a little tricky.
Since we're not local, I can't speak to the quality of other BBQ joints in the area, but I'd recommend Mike and Ed's on the strength of our experience. I've heard good things about their ribs and stews and, if you go, don't be afraid to try the chicken - their 'special dipping sauce' is divine!