Scott and BJ's Bar-B-Cue: 4007 Danielsville Rd. Thurs-Fri-Sat, 11am-8pm. CASH ONLY.
I'm tempted to discuss Scott and BJ's Bar-B-Cue as a sanctuary in the fading South, a mom-and-pop homestead eeking out a living at the edge of urban encroachment.
I search out restaurants cloaked in such nostalgia, and Scott's, as the ten-year-old restaurant is commonly referred to, stuffs each cranny of that mold: it's in Norwood, a nearly Madison County nook many Athenians have never heard about; a single-wide building includes four tables, lunch counter, storage, and kitchen; under a exterior metal canopy, a smoker chuffs away, fed wood by two grey-haired, semi-retired women; and Scott's itself hides on a gravely stretch between a liquor store and a hardly noticeable produce stand.
Instead, I'll start with a personal milestone: Scott's is the first bbq spot in a while where I prefer pork to beef.
At Scott's, pig beats brisket, but be sure to get it sliced, not chopped. (1/3)
A successful meal at Scott and BJ's Bar-B-Cue requires expert sauce deployment. Mild and hot sit on the table. Extra hot comes when called for (call for it). Either hot or extra hot make Scott's dry cornbread edible.
It might make sense to order chopped pork as it provides the most sauceable surface, but it creates a mess. The sliced pork, flushed by veins of fat, proves a more than serviceable canvas on which to squirt Scott's vinegary condiment. On two occasions, my Styrofoam plate resembled bergs of buoyant swine floating in a ruby sea. It looked like a crime scene but pleased all senses.
Why no beef? Despite an impressive smoke ring, Scott's textureless brisket lacks memorable characteristics. It's stiff, and the hickory brume that makes the tender pork worth repeating is missing.
To repeat: go sliced.
The beef underwhelmed and I can't recommend the chicken. Instead of critiquing the bird, though, I'll dish on sides for this final post.
Scott's delivers an unfussy hash made pleasing by a trifecta of meatiness, sauciness, and saltiness.
Collard are finely chopped, lightly fatbacked, and tangy. Good, but the potlicker isn't worth saving the cornbread.
Mac and cheese tempts the limit on how much cheese a recipe should suggest, but skirts it wonderfully.
The slaw and potato salad eerily mimics the Publix deli, but, hell, I'm not complaining. That stuff's good.