Decatur, Alabama seemed like my second home during most of my formative years and no visit was complete without a stop at Big Bob Gipson Bar-B-Q on 6th Avenue.
There is little doubt I did not fully appreciate great barbecue as a child since I ate it so often. Yet each time I enter Big Bob Gibson’s original location in Decatur, the unique aroma of southern pit barbecue, smoked turkey and vinegar-based Big Bob Gibson white sauce remind me how fortunate many of us are to live in God’s country and experience such a southern delicacy.
Big Bob Gibson was a railroad employee when he started selling his sandwiches from various locations in Decatur before settling down on 6th Avenue in 1952. Although that building burned down in 1988, they wasted no time in rebuilding next door and kept the meat smoking. Big Bob passed always in the early seventies, but his grandson, Don McLemore and son-in-law Chris Lilly, continued the family tradition. In fact, Chris was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2016.
My mom was born in Decatur and some our favorite cousins were the Brown’s: Paul (Bud), who was in the funeral business, Martha, a popular home economics teacher at Decatur High, and their two sons, Calvin and Jeffery. Whenever we visited Decatur, we either dined at the restaurant or had takeout and rarely left without a large bag of goodies.
Being raised in West Tennessee, I’m used to red, tomato-based sauces you find in the best Memphis barbecue joints. But only a short 100-mile drive southeast from my hometown of Savannah, TN was Big Bob Gibson’s white sauce, which I might add totally completes the barbecue chicken.
How good is Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q? Well, Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Cook-off is one of the coveted wins for any pork pit master and Gibson’s has won first place in pork eight times and carried home four Grand Champion trophies.
Besides the pulled pork, I’ve mentioned the smoked turkey and chicken and they are excellent, especially with a little white sauce. But please don’t leave without either sampling or taking home their famous Brunswick Stew. I bet if checked the freezer in my mom’s house I would find a least two gallons.
Decatur is located about 50 miles southeast of Florence, AL and is a short 14 mile drive due west of Huntsville. If you eat at only one place in Decatur then Big Bob Gibson’s is that place.