Camping for the weekend in the Anniston – Oxford metroplex, one of my jobs was finding a lunch spot. I pulled up the lists and found that I had very little that was less than an hour away. Then I saw the note for Rusty’s Bar-B-Q which said “halfway between Birmingham and Taladega” and I knew I was onto something.
We began working our way towards Leeds, hitting antique and thrift stores along the way, searching for treasure. We pulled into the parking lot of a converted fast food joint (Hardee’s?) and walked up to the counter – behind the wall in the picture below. Note the Pepsi sign – that’s the only downside to this place, although the sweet tea was good and they had Diet Dr. Pepper.
When we were getting ready to order, my beloved asked what all was in the salad. To paraphrase Jerry McGuire, he had her at “spring mix”. You see, we have been trying to eat healthier (as much as I’ll allow) over the last several weeks. For years, one of our classic issues with most non-fine-dining restaurants (not just barbecue places) is that the salad is based on iceberg lettuce. Iceberg has zero nutritional value and not quite as much taste. This salad, with a spring mix base was such a surprise! She ordered it, topped with smoked turkey, which had just come off the smoker. This was a win. I didn’t order the same –
I was there for – wait for it –
Yep – we went to a barbecue place, specifically, for a burger. This isn’t unheard of, at all. Rusty’s was on my list from an article that one of my friends had sent me – the United States of Burgers: the Best Burgers in 50 States. And there was also an article from Southern Living displayed by the counter, talking about Rusty’s burgers.
They had four sauces on the table: sweet, house, spicy and “white sauce”. I adore white sauce, particularly on well smoked pork and chicken.
If you aren’t familiar with white sauce, I delved into its origins in my post on Big Bob Gibson’s, in Decatur, AL – which is apparently still in draft mode… Guess you’ll have to wait for it, since Bob seems to have started the whole thing*.
What I failed to take a picture of was the salad. As we were eating, Rusty stopped by and asked how the meal was. My beloved started telling him how excited she was about the spring mix. He told us that he had recently switched from an all romaine base to the spring mix. He had tweeted, asking what folks thought was the weak link on his menu and the response had been the salad. So he listened and made the change. In the conversation, we found that he had been to culinary school and gave us a few tips on some great places to eat in Birmingham, so I added them to the lists.
I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a pulled pork sandwich.
The pulled pork was good, moist and served with a bit of the house sauce. I tried part of it with the house, spicy and white sauce and really enjoyed the third of the sandwich with the hot sauce. It had just enough heat to give it a kick.
The burger was cooked medium well, I believe on a griddle, the bacon was crispy and the cheese was perfectly melted – not so runny that it fell off the burger, but still gooey. I added the white sauce and knew why I was there for that burger. It was excellent.
And did I mention the spring mix base in the salad?
* For what it’s worth, if you need a quick, extremely well-done primer on the differences in barbecue and barbecue sauces in the Southern United States, check out this video from Rhett and Link. It’s awesome.