Still Life: North Alabama BarbecueThursday, July 26, 2012
From a low-slung, beige block building with a somewhat confusing history (like: they are 'Old Greenbrier' and are in the older building but the original Greenbrier is in the newer building (people are still ticked about them moving up to the highway)) Greenbrier Restaurant serves up some of the best barbecue chicken and catfish you can get anywhere.
You can't just say you're going to Greenbrier; you have to say which one, and you have to make sure the person you're talking to 'gets' the difference the same way you do. In any case, there's been barbecue coming out of this building for ages. And, big surprise, Greenbrier Restaurant gets asked about selling those great Double Cola 'Hushpuppy' and 'Pork' signs all the time:
I'm lucky because when I visit my artist friends in Huntsville (incl. Wade and Conor), we just go here. This is our default lunch place. Yay!
Mexican restaurants put out chips and salsa. In good north Alabama barbecue restaurants, they rush to your table with steaming-hot hushpuppies and white chicken sauce.
North Alabama still life, with half those Zeppelin-shaped hushpuppies already doused in sauce:
White chicken sauce is a north Alabama construct, begun in Decatur decades ago with Big Bob Gibson and migrating eleven miles east here to Greenbrier. Then the white barbecue sauce phenomenon flows further along, all over Huntsville, and all along some imaginary line, south to Cullman and north to the Tennessee border. But that line has all kinds of holes in it, because Miss Myra (who grew up in Decatur) is serving it in Birmingham and the Cypress Inn in Tuscaloosa has it too. It's in Pensacola and Nashville. The secret -- if it ever was a secret -- is out.
The chicken they serve at Greenbrier Restaurant is crazy-good. It doesn't need any help. But, well, when you have white barbecue sauce on the table, you just...
Oh, and if you're a regular here you know that tucked around the corner where you'd never expect it is an ice cream machine that runs on an honor system at $.25/cup.
Those dreamy hushpuppies they serve are so good that the man who owns the restaurant sells copies of the...machine...he uses to make them at $1295. It's called a 'Hushpuppy King' and is described as a 'hushpuppy Gatling gun'; no wonder.