Jacksonville, Alabama – Recently a couple of our BBR staff members made the journey down to Jacksonville, AL to watch the UNA football team take on the Gamecocks. Since we were leaving Florence at noon we decided to stop somewhere in Jacksonville for an early dinner before going to the game.
Choices in and around Jacksonville are not overly abundant except for a few of the fast food chain burger joints. When we travel we always like to look for the Mom and Pop eateries that are off the beaten path and this time was no exception. It was a “NO-Brainer” since one of the local barbecue joints’ ribs are on the List of 100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die and have won numerous other local awards. The list of 100 dishes was compiled by tourism professionals from around the state and published by the Alabama Department of Tourism.
Our destination was Cooter Brown’s Rib Shack, located on Alabama 204 just outside of town. We thought from all reports that the parking lot would be full but there were only a few cars at 3:30 pm, however, once we got inside we were glad the parking lot wasn’t full because there would have been a heck of a wait. Cooter Brown’s is a former sports bar type watering hole that catered to the local folks that wanted to watch sporting events and knock back a few brewskies.
However, in 2000 all of this changed with the purchase of the business by its current owners Tim and Barbara Johnson. The building has always housed some type of bar and Tim and Barbara wanted to change that image somewhat and start focusing on the food. After all, you can get a cold beer or mixed drink most anywhere, but you can only get those great tasting ribs at Cooter Brown’s.”
From the outside the place still looks like a county line beer joint. Those not familiar and just passing by may think you need a knife or gun to enter. However, once inside you’ll find a cozy, relaxing atmosphere with a friendly staff eager to serve you some of the best food in the area. Just remember our food is as good, as our building is ugly. (source: Cooter Brown’s website)
The inside of the “Ugly” building as they call it, is tight quarters with what I estimated to be about 35 to 40 available seats including the bar stools. Of course you don’t come to Cooter Brown’s to Line Dance, you come to eat ribs, barbecue and other q-joint food, so sitting elbow to elbow with other barbecue aficionados isn’t a big deal but you do have to watch out for flying barbecue sauce.
I ordered the half slab of St. Louis style spare ribs with fries and my dining partner got a barbecue sandwich and fries. His take on the barbecue was that it tasted very good and was above average.
The ribs were very tender and moist with a good smoky flavor to them that comes from being cooked with hickory wood. They were “fall off the bone” tender which is what the average barbecue eater has come to expect and most restaurants comply with. However, around the barbecue contest circuit there is a saying “If the meat falls off the bone, then the ribs are overcooked.” Ribs should have just a bit of pull on them when eating off the bone and should have a pink interior from the smoke. These ribs had neither, but I didn’t expect them to since they were cooking for the restaurant crowd.
So the question would be if they served these ribs to a group of six judges would they win? The answer would be a resounding NO! But, you serve these to six hungry guys at a quaint Q-joint with a cold brew and you’re gonna get rave reviews which would be justly deserved.
I enjoyed eating the ribs and cleaned the bones thoroughly and left with a smile on my face, along with a little barbecue sauce I’m sure. Cooter Brown’s ribs are better than any I’ve tasted locally so I would stop again at Cooter’s if I’m down that way and I recommend you do to.
Prices clock in as moderate, my ½ rack of spareribs was $11.99 without the fries. Fries came in at $1.99, and drinks at $1.49. It was a very good meal for under $20.00.