Dear Loyal Blog Fans,
First, an apology. It has been 6 weeks (6 weeks!) since our last post. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that a plague of several minor yet incapacitating and highly inconvenient illnesses has passed through the Foodie household. These are illnesses that, let’s say, make it harder to enjoy a delicious multi-course meal. (Use your imagination.) And while we had planned to send our unpaid intern and staffers to cover new places – wait a minute, we don’t have any of that. That was all a fever dream.
So, do not think we have abandoned you, friends. Au contraire – we have emerged literally hungrier than ever for new hidden foodie gems.
That brings us to our first stop on the post-plague recovery trail: Leonard’s BBQ and Burger Hut. Back in February, we brought you what remains one of our all-time favorite meals in Birmingham: Robert’s Cuisine, an incredible soul food spot in Titusville (a neighbhorhood just north and west of UAB). As we were heading out of Robert’s, we noticed this sign, and a parking lot full of cars to go with it: (Address: 104 6th Avenue South, Birmingham)
Phone is ringing…. it’s for you!
I added this to my ever-growing list of must try restaurants, and waited for the perfect opportunity to present itself.
That opportunity came two weeks ago, during the Sidewalk Film Festival. This is an event that Mr. Foodie and I attend religiously every year, as do many of our friends. So on Sunday afternoon, during a 2 hour lull between movies we wanted to see, we headed out to Leonard’s.
Another exterior shot:
The place is not fancy. It’s more than a “hut” – it really resembles a 1980s-90s Denny’s. Homey and a little bit plain, but totally welcoming. You walk in, step up to the counter, take a look at the menu on the wall, and place your order.
Here’s the menu:
Exactly what I expected. Mr. Foodie let me do the ordering for us, and I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to try everything in the name: BBQ and burger. So I ordered a large burger with “the works,” and a chopped pork plate. One of my friends ordered the ribs and ranch cheese fries, promising to share.
As I was paying, I noticed that our other friends were lingering just beyond, a little further into the restaurant. They were peering into a case and oohing and aahing…. what was going on?
It was the steam table. I have to say (and maybe one of you can help enlighten us) – I had never heard of a meat and three or a steam table before we moved here. As usual, Wikipedia provides some good basic info, as does this incredible website, where you can actually find the meat and three closest to your house. For those of you who don’t know, as best I can understand, a meat and three meal is literally a meat served with three “veggies” which may include mac and cheese, collards, fried okra, french fries, or other fried things. This is typically served with cornbread and sweet tea. And often, the food is kept hot in a device called a “steam table,” which can apparently be conveniently purchased from online restaurant supply stores and is just what it sounds like.
Here’s the steam table menu. Enough to keep you busy for awhile, and quite reasonably priced I might add.
Our friends were steam table pros. While I had taken 10 minutes to decide, they quickly ordered the oxtail, collards, black eyed peas, and cornbread.
While we were waiting for our food to come out, we tasted theirs. Here it is in all its glory:
I mean, it was all good, but let me tell you about the oxtail. Rich and fall off the bone tender, it was drink-the-gravy delicious.
Oxtail glamor shot:
Take a look under the hood, folks:
I don’t want to get dramatic here, but: this ranks in the top 2 or 3 burgers I’ve ever had in my life. Patty was the perfect thickness-probably a half inch but still nice and juicy. Bun was soft and a little flaky. Slathered with mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, and just a tiny bit of grease, I devoured this burger bite by juicy bite. I want one RIGHT NOW.
So they had lived up to the designation of burger hut. What about BBQ? There’s so much great BBQ in town, it seemed impossible that we could really find a new BBQ gem, right? Wrong. Take a look:
Everyone who tried it had the same observation-in addition to being juicy and cooked to perfection, it had a deep smokiness to it that made it stand out. The sauce was sweet and a little tangy, and complimented the meat perfectly. The Mac and cheese was cheesy but not overly so, and was clearly made from real milk and cream. The collards had a smoky pork flavor and were a nice lighter complement to the meat. All in all, our group agreed: this was some of the best BBQ in town, and could holds its own with Saw’s and Jim and Nicks. High praise, to be sure.
Now for the true test of BBQ: the ribs. The size of Fred Flintstone’s dinner, these were just ridiculous. So meaty, so juicy, so tender, again that smoky flavor with the sweet sauce. By the end, there was BBQ sauce everywhere-I was still finding spots hours later. Totally worth it. And a special shout-out to the ranch cheese fries poking out in the back. I have no idea what made these so especially good but-they’re a must. The creaminess and saltiness next to that BBQ. Even my Jewish grandmother would have made an exception for this pork mixed with milk dish.
Another shot just to prove the point that they are supersized:
So to sum it up, we’re back, Birmingham. As if we were ever really gone. As if. Because in a town like this, where you can still “discover” hidden foodie BBQ and burger hut gems that have been right under your nose (the sign is visible from the highway), there are plenty more foodie gems to be found. And that means we have a lot more eating to do.
A special thanks to Ashley, Reza, and Michelle. You ate a lot, you took one for the team, and for that, we salute you.