Back in the late 1990s, I ended up traveling to Birmingham often. And by often, I mean a lot. Over the course of about three years, I probably drove back and forth between Birmingham and Atlanta at least twenty times. Every one of those times, I drove by this sign for Golden Rule Bar-B-Q and Grill in Irondale – a suburb just east of Birmingham on I-20, before it merges with I-59. In the last ten years, I’ve probably driven by it a dozen more times. When I was looking for a lunch spot, and my first three ideas (McKinley’s Bar B Q and Soul Food – apparently closed for a couple of years – and Highlands Bar and Grill and Hot and Hot Fish Club – neither of which was open for lunch) didn’t pan out, I made the executive decision that today was the day to finally give it a try.
Earlier in the day – while I was learning that my first three choices weren’t going to work out – I had also been searching Google to find the best burger in Birmingham and was surprised to learn that Golden Rule made the top five list there. It said that the burger was fast-food like (thin patty, griddle cooked) but the ornamentation (lettuce, tomato, pickle, mustard and BARBECUE SAUCE) meant I’d have to try one of those, in addition to the ‘cue.
When we pulled in mid-afternoon, the left side of the dining room was open and there were about fifteen tables with diners seated. They also did a fairly brisk carry-out business the whole time we were there. I decided on a rib sandwich with a cup of stew and fries and, after a discussion with the waitress, a cheeseburger.
The stew was much more like vegetable soup than Brunswick stew, in my book: thin, with peas, onion, carrots, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, pork, beef and chicken. The whole pantry. As vegetable stew, it was okay. As Brunwsick stew, it wasn’t much to write home about.
The burger was interesting. I don’t know that it was particularly great, but it was definitely different. The combination of barbecue sauce and mustard made for a really interesting juxtaposition of tastes.
The ribs were listed as “jumbo” babyback ribs and they definitely were meaty.
They were covered in Golden Rule’s house sauce, which was vinegar based and thin. I sampled the other two sauces, sweet (thick, probably molasses based) and hot (tasted more like cayenne than tabasco). The hot, mixed with the house sauce made for a decent mix.
Apparently they are popular enough in Birmingham to have entered the franchise business, but I understand why Jim N Nick’s has made it across state lines and Golden Rule is still only in mid-Alabama.