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Looking for good barbecue? Safety pros are in the know!

Most publications get professional foodies to compile lists of favorite restaurants. But we think we have an even better source: The safety staff of the Alabama Rural Electric Association, which publishes Alabama Living.

Why? Our safety guys are always on the road, traveling to provide training and guidance to our 22 member cooperatives and some municipal electric utilities.

Among the staff’s many duties: They conduct monthly in-house safety meetings, crew visits and facility inspections at your local co-op; they train your co-op’s employees on everything from CPR to hazardous materials to pole-top rescue; they work with co-op managers and CEOs to provide updates and interpretations from such national regulatory groups as OSHA and DOT; and they coordinate power restoration assistance after weather-related events.

These jobs keep them moving all over the state of Alabama, from the mountains of the northeast to the Black Belt to the Wiregrass to the Gulf Coast. And as you might expect, it means a lot of eating on the road!

We asked them to tell us their favorite barbecue places around the state, just in time for football season tailgating. Of course, we can’t list every great barbecue joint in Alabama, so drop us a line and let us know your favorite (and why!).

Send those by mail to Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124, or via email to al@alabamaliving.coop

– Allison Law


Michael Kelley

Director of safety, loss control and regulatory compliance, AREA

Home base: Wetumpka

Favorite barbecue place: Mud Creek Bar-B-Que, 804 County Road 213, Hollywood, AL 35752; 256-259-2493

Billy Carver and his brother-in-law, Gerry Teal, own and operate Mud Creek, which features a barbecue sauce that is Carolina style – meaning it’s vinegar and mustard based, as opposed to the more ketchup- or molasses-based sauces. It’s off the beaten path in Jackson County, but is known by locals and travelers alike for its great food and friendly service.

Safety man says: The hush puppies are a must-try side item, and the barbecue sauce is “the bomb.”


Eric Turner

Safety specialist, AREA

Home base: Cullman

Favorite barbecue place: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, 2520 Danville Road SW, Decatur, AL 35603, 256-350-0404; and 1715 6th Ave. SE, Decatur, AL 35601, 256-350-6969

Big Bob Gibson’s was founded in Decatur in 1925 by Bob Gibson, an L&N Railroad worker who honed his cooking skills on the weekends in a hand-dug barbecue pit. In addition to the delicious smoked meats, the restaurant became famous for its original white sauce. Today, five generations of pitmasters have earned 15 World BBQ Championships and five Memphis in May World BBQ Grand Championships. And the restaurants now feature a signature red sauce in addition to the peppery white sauce served on the barbecued chickens; both sauces are widely available in stores.

Safety man says: “They have the best smoked turkey that I’ve eaten anywhere. I’m not a huge pork fan so I base my restaurants on the turkey. Their white sauce is I believe a world champion winner.”


Jeff Whatley

Training and safety coordinator, AREA

Home base: Grady community

Favorite barbecue place: SweetCreek Farms, 85 Meriwether Road, Pike Road, AL 36064; 334-280-3276

SweetCreek was also our Worth the Drive feature in August! In addition to the pulled pork, the restaurant serves smoked chicken and St. Louis-style ribs.

Safety man says: “All meat is cooked over pecan wood for a mellow smoke taste. You can smell it when you get out of the truck. Homemade sauce combines sweet and savory. Everything is fresh and homemade. Favorite sides are jalapeno-based swamp slaw and broccoli salad. Finish it off with homemade ice cream and cookies.”


Buster Bishop

Training and safety coordinator, AREA

Home base: Billingsley

Favorite barbecue place: Jim’s B-B-Q, 3657 U.S. 82, Billingsley, AL 36006; 334-366-4284

Jim’s is still family-owned and operated since it opened in the 1970s, and is likely best known as the place to stop on the way to and from Tuscaloosa for Alabama home football games. Owner Jeannette Hughes told al.com that employees put in 18 hours a day when Alabama plays at home.

Safety man says: The smoked pulled pork in their sandwich is piled high and “yum yum. The vinegar sauce is outstanding.”