Whole Hog Heaven

James Beard winner Rodney Scott opens an award-winning barbecue outpost in the city.

Written by Joe O’Donnell • Photography by Beau Gustafson

From the time Rodney Scott was a baby in the little town of Hemingway, South Carolina, Thursday at the little grocery/convenience store Scott’s parents operated meant one thing: a smoked whole hog that brought customers in from miles, drawn by the intoxicating aroma and flavor. Young Rodney was only 11 when he cooked his first whole hog. Soon the barbecue was so popular, the days it was available to customers just kept multiplying.

Some things don’t change. Today, Rodney Scott is a James Beard winning chef (best chef in the Southeast) with barbecue restaurants in Hemingway, Charleston and now Birmingham. In partnership with Nick Pihakis, Scott opened his Birmingham restaurant on Third Avenue South between Lakeview and Avondale.

Rodney Scott’s barbecue is smoked over glowing coals of oak with a touch of hickory and pecan hardwood, and the fresh whole hogs are first cooked belly down for 12 hours before they’re flipped over on their back, seasoned and doused liberally with Rodney’s vinegar-based sauce and allowed to cook a little longer to let the flavors soak in. These hogs are then pulled and served on sandwiches, as a plate with two sides, over grits with a side and cornbread and, of course, by the pound.

The barbecue is joined on the menu with ribs that are covered in a special rub, slow-smoked and slathered in sauce, baked mac n’ cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping, fried catfish, pit-cooked bbq chicken and smoked turkey, sides such as collard greens, hush puppies, coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and, for dessert, a banana pudding from his mother’s recipe.

“The menu basically came from my childhood,” Scott says. “My mom would cook banana pudding on Sunday. Baked beans, that was usually on a Wednesday night.”

It’s that simple philosophy of good times and good food that makes Rodney Scott’s such a fun place to eat. The restaurant is in the old location of the Saigon Noodle House and features a wide open main dining area and to the right of the entrance a large patio for outdoor dining. But whether indoor or outdoor, the barbecue aroma is unmistakable.

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