Big Bob Gibson BBQ: Decatur, AL
with Mike Johnston
Please don't get me wrong, I've been excited about all of the stops, bonus stops and replacements stops I've been to and will go to, but Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que is one of the ones I've been most excited about. I think it's the old school neon sign and the idea that I was going to a place where a barbecue flavor profile was invented. The latter being a rare opportunity these days.
I was confident going into the legendary spot because pitmaster Ken Hess had responded kindly and dang quickly to my request via email to talk 'cue. Once in the door, a distinguished looking man, none other than Don McLemore, Big Bob's grandson and the now proprietor (not to mention, multi- time barbecue champion on some of the biggest stages), was backing out of his office with a box full of paperwork and heading for home. He was right in front of me, so I started talking to him about what I was doing. We chatted it up just a bit and then he put down the box and off we went to find Ken.
I could tell immediately that Ken was exactly who he projected himself to be via email. So now I'm hanging with Don, Ken and a few others and they are just so sincerely interested in the journey I'm on. It's easy to think that as the number of stops goes up (now 53 or 54) that would be the talking point, but these guys just love barbecue. They live it and seem to be happiest in it and talking about it, which made for a great interview/conversation.
I learned a lot today, but not what sparked Big Bob's idea for the white sauce. That, Don says, is a mystery. What isn't a mystery is that the white sauce is a big part of the reason Alabama is recognized as one of the seven American barbecue regions. They say you either love it or you hate it. I'll go with the former here. To me, it just adds a layer of flavor that partners with the 'cue unlike some red barbecue sauces which can take the leading role.
White sauce and chicken isn't all they do here! They have turkey, brisket, pulled pork, ribs...the works...just look at the food they put in front of me. They have other sauces too, including the other original one Big Bob created, a cayenne spiced vinegar sauce. Ken and his team sure know what they are doing in the pits...and the kitchen.
Big Bob's Gibson's has been serving up their tasty cue since 1925 - that's an incredible 90 years! Go visit them and let's keep them here another 90. Also thanks to Tammy, Crystal and the rest of the staff for making my visit so memorable, and for that slice of coconut cream pie! #chasingbbq