Dry-rubbed, hickory-smoked, no-sauce-needed ribs from Smokin’ on the Boulevard in Florence were dubbed Bama’s Best Pork Ribs in an inaugural contest sponsored by the Alabama Pork Producers.
Jeff Carter and Karen Hill opened the roadside stand six years ago, where they cook St. Louis-style ribs low and slow in a fertilizer-buggy-turned-smoker. They said they were honored to be named Bama’s best, but accolades aren’t their priority.
“The awards don’t mean anything in comparison to our customers coming back again and again,” said Carter, whose champion restaurant received $500 from the Alabama Pork Producers. “If you’re willing to put the time in, anyone can cook like this. It affirms that we’re doing the right thing when customers say, ‘You’ve made my day again.’”
The ribs are massaged with a secret, world championship-winning dry rub before heading to a 150-degree smoker. Carter bumps up the heat by 10 degrees hourly, as the ribs smoke for more than 10 hours. The result is pull-off-the-bone tender ribs covered in a slightly spicy glaze.
While ribs are Smokin’ on the Boulevard’s specialty, Boston butts, whole chickens with homemade white sauce, smoked bologna, pork tenderloin and smoked cabbage round out the restaurant’s menu. The restaurant is open Thursday-Saturday.
Bama’s Best Pork Ribs received over 900 nominations for more than 100 restaurants on Facebook this spring. Heard’s BBQ & Soul Food in Maplesville in Chilton County, one of four finalists, snagged the People’s Choice Award for receiving the most nominations. Wiley’s Smuteye Grill in Smuteye in Bullock County and Whillard’s BBQ & Grill in Marion in Perry County rounded out the Final Four.
The restaurants were pitted against each other during judging April 18-19. Judges were Alabama pig farmer Daniel Tubbs, competitive cook Bob Plaster and Alabama NewsCenter restaurant reporter Susan Swagler.
Swagler said the finalists served up barbecue brilliance worth the drive — even if it’s across the state.
“I came away from all four places just blown away by the flavor and quality of ribs they are serving,” she said. “I was humbled by the stories of these barbecue cooks and incredibly impressed with the support of their local communities. These are good people serving honest-to-goodness great food.”
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Guy Hall said the contest highlighted an iconic cut of meat just in time for summer road trips and grilling season.
“The Alabama Pork Producers was proud to sponsor Bama’s Best Pork Ribs and help uncover some of the finest pork rib restaurants in the state,” said Hall, the Federation’s Pork Division director. “Each had excellent rib recipes that would make your month water, and all four restaurants are worth a road trip.”
Follow Smokin’ on the Boulevard on Facebook here.
The Alabama Pork Producers is a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state’s largest farm organization with more than 357,000 members.