Little Paul’s Barbecue

31 Mar 2011
Cheap Eat (up to $7)
Downtown Huntsville
3 out of 5
Little Paul's Barbecue

Melanie’s Take

Even though we live right around the corner from Little Paul’s, we had never given it a try. There were lots of reasons to be excited to try it out, from the owner being a son of the Gibson’s we frequent to him also being an Alabama senator. Once we were inside, I learned that he had been trained as a chef, so my expectations were increasing by the minute. I ordered a brisket plate with potato salad, baked beans, and a cornbread muffin. Shane decided to try the bbq stuffed potato. As soon as our food arrived, it was obvious that Shane had made the better choice.

Pork Plate

The brisket on my plate was tough and dry. Although some bites were better than others, there were times when I had to chew and chew and chew to be able to get the brisket down. Unfortunately, my cornbread muffin was no better. It reminded me of the cornbread my grandmother leaves out on the counter to dry out before making dressing. The baked beans were fine, but were nothing special. The best item on my plate by far was the potato salad. It was the mustard-style kind, which I love, and had nice depth of flavor. I am willing to concede that Little Paul’s was off its game because I’ve heard great things about the food, but neither our food nor our service was any better than average.

Even though the meal was unimpressive, I decided to try the pie. Lemon ice box is my favorite, so that was my choice. The pie was good, being tart and sweet at the same time, but the vanilla wafer crust was so crumbly that it did not hold together. Although this experience normally would have kept from bringing me back to Little Paul’s, I am willing to give this neighborhood spot another try because of the recommendation of other friends. Let’s hope it’s better next time.

Shane’s Take

As Melanie said, I tried the barbeque potato, which closely follows the pork plate as a standard measurement of barbeque quality in North Alabama. The potato arrived large and steaming with a nice covering of shredded cheddar cheese and a typical but plentiful measure of pork. The potato itself was not dry (like so many) and had a nice char-flavored and tough-textured skin. The skin was superior and the highlight of the entire potato–I left none on the plate. The pork was good, having a nice consistency and a flavor between plain and spectacular but by no means bad. I added rib sauce and the vinegar sauce to it many times, which improved the flavor as it should, but it wasn’t enough to make it go from good to great. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to returning for another.

Likewise, I enjoyed the atmosphere. The dining area is small and almost cramped, but I found it pleasant, unpretentious, and inviting. The day we visited the sun filled the dining room with a nice spring color, mostly overwhelming the fluorescent lights. That would seem to be common, as the shelves lining the walls are adorned by numerous sun-faded magazine clippings. I also liked the small tables covered in the overused but always inviting checkerboard tableclothes. Little Paul’s is a pleasant place to eat. It’s not a fantastic eat, but it makes for a enjoyable late Saturday afternoon lunch. Despite Melanie’s painfully overcooked brisket and day-old cornbread (my gut says it was a bad day at Little Paul’s that day), I enjoyed eating there and hope to return. Things to see:

  • In my world of barbeque potato eating, Paul’s stands at #4. #1 is Lawler’s. #2 is Johnny’s (in Cullman). #3 is Big Bob Gibson’s. On a good day, Paul’s could be as good as Big Bob’s, but he won’t top Johnny without that magic sauce of his or Lawler’s without their seasoning.
  • Take a look at the faded magazine articles about Little Paul’s that line the shelves in the dining room. While noticing the pictures of Paul over the years, and how he’s aged over the years, I found myself wondering how age would treat me as time passes. Who knows?
  • For first-timers: When you walk in, walk directly to the counter and order. The staff will walk around the room offering help and refills, but you aren’t assigned a waiter.
  • The price is about average for an urban barbeque restaurant. Two meals and two sweet teas run about $17-20.
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