When I was at University in Starkville, There was this barbecue joint that we frequented. Since then I have often said that it’s a good thing that guy closed down or else I’d be dead from cholesterol!
Actually, it wasn’t even a barbeque joint. It was just an old black guy with a big white boxy van with “Al’s BBQ” painted on the side. On weekends he’d park in an empty lot on the corner of Hwy 12 and South Jackson Street and he’d set up smokers outside. He’d cook all day long and fill the town with this delicious smoke that by about lunchtime would start drawing customers like flies.
The only thing Al cooked on Saturdays was racks of ribs. If you wanted sausage or chicken (or heck, I guess he could have barbecued anything you asked for) then you had to go visit with him a week early and put in your order, which I presume he’d cook Thursday or Friday at his home and then you could pick it up wrapped in foil sometime the next Saturday.
I don’t think there were any sides available. No slaw or fries, no desserts, no drinks – just smoked ribs (or chicken for the fancy folks with forethought). When you bought a rack or two of ribs he’d give you a pint of bbq sauce and he’d throw in a roll of cheap paper towels and an entire loaf of cheap white bread.
Al’s BBQ van was a fixture in Starkville throughout the late 1980’s but eventually, he stopped showing up on the corner and left a rib-shaped void in the center of town.
That lot sat empty for some years until finally, Petty’s BBQ opened up a location there. I don’t know if there is any relation between Al and the Pettys, but in the fog of my memory, I always liked Al’s barbecue better.
Those were some fine ribs!