We can remember, in fact, when the streets of Avondale resembled Sarajevo during wartime, and we are not just alluding to the Talking Heads song. There was no ethnic cleansing that we know of, but the streets were hot, dusty, and bare when the Birmingham Weekly first set up shop there last August. But before Avondale went from cautionary tale to hot spot, Saw’s was already there in Homewood, in that little Oxmoor strip.
Before Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale started serving our favorite oyster sandwich, with Brandon in the kitchen acting like he’s still executive chef at Ocean, but with much more personable management, cranking out soft shell crab BLTs for heaven’s sake, there was already a pretty good Saw’s smoking the same pulled pork BBQ and serving the same chicken with white sauce that hipsters now flock in droves to get at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale. I’m going to have to start putting out an orange cone to save my parking space.
When Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale was still our favorite authentic culinary cultural treasure, Quick & Split, serving oxtail and chitterlings to the Birmingham police force, there was a Saw’s in Homewood, don’t forget.
And while we are prejudiced in favor of our own neighborhood, even we have reasons to roam over to Homewood, and not just so that Scarlet won’t pop in the gallery and catch us chatting with Bunny, and to avoid all other manner of catfights.
For example, Saw’s Soul Kitchen does not serve a very important staple of BBQ joints. For that you have to go to Saw’s BBQ mecca in Homewood.
So Bunny and I popped over there in between bikini modeling sessions and got a half rack of ribs, along with side servings of mac & cheese and turnip greens, and all the unsweet tea we could drink. We’re sweet enough already, thanks.
Or should I say, according to the old journalistic formula, from the origins of Birmingham restaurant reviewing back in the Pleistocene Age, that I got the half rack of ribs and Bunny got the mac & cheese.
Well, she said she wasn’t all that hungry but I don’t know why I keep getting fooled by that old saw because she gladly ripped into my stack of ribs, though she swore by the mac. Fortunately the half rack is not a dainty portion the way it is in some rib joints. We had to box up the leftovers and tote them back to Avondale.
Now allow me to comment: I was quite impressed because I have rarely seen that much attention to texture in any restaurant since dining with David Bowie in a Kyoto, Japan haute cuisine restaurant, and I have to say I was blown away on that occasion by shame that on this side of the Pacific we would ever boil our food and fail to bring out every tactile complexity and nuance possible.
The ribs themselves were large and meaty. None of that gnawing at the bone like a weasel with chisels for front teeth just to get anything to eat. I have had that experience. And the copious meat was tender, without sacrificing flavor, and that goes back to the complexity of texture. Because while that meat was tender and fell from the bone and dissolved in your mouth, the outside was slightly charred and irregular, giving the ribs color and mouthfeel and sealing in flavor. And then the ribs were drizzled with the tangy sauce that is more the consistency of a broth. So you get the tenderness and the flavor, the coarser texture and the sauce. The sauce turns the meat into slop in many BBQ stands, but in this place they have achieved the precarious balance you want—with a meat that keeps its consistency when the sauce is applied.
Bunny sulked a little over the mac & cheese after having such high expecta tions and not because she is manic depressive. It just did not suit her as much as usual—she said on a good day it is more cheesy and creamy, and the mac a little more al dente, but that is the risk of restaurant reviews that are bound by the laws of quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that posit that matter is influenced by the act of observing it. And no mac & cheese in everyday reality can match Bunny’s childhood memories. That often requires an elaborate thought experiment. Even I rarely stand up to them, either, and that is just one reason I prefer to remain anonymous, and only partly so the country girl can’t find me and give me another vehement belt with her bodice while I go on hoping no one in the restaurant took notice of her wrathful frolic.
Did I mention the side of fresh turnip greens? This one is a very tangy mixture. Bunny pointed out that it has a little of Saw’s BBQ sauce mixed in. Well that explains it. That girl is worth her weight in arugula, at least.
And we finished on a high note that made her smile, with the banana pudding she also recommends in her Facebook profile. I got the feeling she has eaten there before, and not because she is the type who always does her homework, but finding good places to eat--and getting to the bottom of what’s on the menu--is one way she does apply herself. What a quick feast and study.
Saw’s BBQ 1008 Oxmoor Road, Homewood (205) 879-1937 sawsbbq.com