When deadly tornadoes slashed across Sand Mountain on Palm Sunday of 1994, Barry and Barbara Owens lost their home, five poultry houses and the pit where Barry prepared his famous pork barbecue for carry-out orders. Thanks to Alfa Insurance, the couple was able to rebuild, and–like the mythical phoenix rising out of the ashes–the business that emerged from the rubble has soared to unimaginable heights.”Alfa was really good to us,” Barry recalled. “But we decided not to build back (the poultry houses), just to build a little restaurant here to seat about 40 people.”Today, the block building near the town of Fyffe that houses Barry’s Backyard Barbecue has grown to accommodate 88 customers at a time, and each week, the Owenses slow cook 2,800 pounds of Boston butts for their restaurant as well as for wholesale distributors.”We’re open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday, and some nights, people will be lined up waiting to be seated,” Barry said. But it’s not just locals who flock to the Owenses’ remote location on DeKalb County Road 527. Every week, folks drive from as far away as Chattanooga and Birmingham to enjoy the country-style buffet at Barry’s, which features farm-raised catfish, broasted chicken, succulent ribs and, of course, barbecue. Guests also can enjoy all-you-can eat homemade ice cream from freezers powered by a 1927 John Deere engine. And Barry’s mother, Mama Nell, makes homemade cobblers using fresh, locally grown fruit.So what makes Barry’s Barbecue worth driving hundreds of miles? Barry said the secret is “good moist meat that’s not dried out, with a good hickory taste.”The recipe sounds simple enough, but it’s one that’s taken Barry 16 years to perfect. It all began in 1988 at nearby Antioch Baptist Church when Barry fired up the barbecue pit for the first time for a church benefit. He soon began getting requests from friends and neighbors who wanted to buy the meat. During the next few years, Barry cooked barbecue part time at restaurants in Fyffe and Rainsville before starting a carry-out business in 1993. Less than a year later, the tornado struck, forcing him to start again. With the help of Alfa, the Owenses cleaned up what was left of their home and poultry farm and began working on the restaurant–even before rebuilding their house. They later installed two commercial barbecue pits, each of which will hold 1,400 pounds of Boston butts. Today, the Owenses use hickory wood to smoke their barbecue. The Boston butts cook for eight hours at about 250 degrees, and the heat is lowered to 220 degrees for another eight hours. A splash of a special vinegar-based sauce is added to the pulled meat during packaging, and the barbecue is ready to heat and serve.Although Barry still has about 100 brood cows on his 300-acre spread, he said life on the farm has changed since he switched from poultry grower to restaurateur. “It’s a lot more work, and it’s more confining,” he said. “When we had poultry houses, you could get out at 6 o’clock in the morning and be finished in a few hours. Now, we get out at 6 a.m., but come 9 o’clock at night, we are still going.”Though the hours are long, Barry said he feels God used the tragedy of the Palm Sunday tornado to bless his family. “The biggest thing, when we started the business, we put it in the good Lord’s hands,” he said in an interview with the Gadsden Times. “He’s always promised He would provide for us, so He’s done well for us.”Barry’s Barbecue is located 4 miles from Alabama Hwy. 75 and 3.5 miles from Alabama Hwy. 35. The Owenses also will ship their barbecue. Call (256) 623-2102 or visit www.barrysbbq.com.
Out of the Rubble