The Most Popular Barbecue Joint In Alabama

SAW's BBQ is the most popular barbecue joint in Alabama.

Saw's BBQ plate

Saw's BBQ

History of SAW's BBQ

In 2009, Mike Wilson made an unlikely move for a classically-trained chef. After nearly a decade working in the test kitchen for Cooking Light magazine, he learned that the owner of Broadway BBQ, a small hole-in-the-wall joint in Homewood, Alabama, was looking to sell. 

“I found out about it on a Thursday,” he told Bob Carlton of, “and bought it on a Tuesday."

Though he held a degree from the prestigious Johnson & Wales culinary program, Wilson was no stranger to the barbecue pit. He started smoking meats in the backyard as a teenager in Charlotte, North Carolina. After moving to Birmingham for the Test Kitchen position, he started barbecuing for friends on the weekends and then began bottling and selling his sweet vinegar-based sauce, which is called SAW’s Sauce. (That’s an acronym for “Stupid A** Wilson,” a nickname he picked up in high school.)

And then a barbecue joint fell into his lap. The chef’s original idea was to have employees run the place during the day until he got off from his Test Kitchen job, but from day one there was a line out the door. A few weeks in, Wilson tendered notice at the magazine and became a full-time pitmaster and restaurateur. 

Wilson passed away in September 2020 at the much-too-young age of 46, but he left as his legacy one of Alabama’s most popular and beloved barbecue operations, which now has six locations in and around Birmingham.

What Makes SAW's BBQ So Popular?

As soon as you step in the front door of the original Homewood restaurant, it’s clear why SAW’s was an immediate hit. There’s nothing fancy about it. Old soft drink signs and framed newspaper clippings line the walls above battered metal wainscoting. You order at the counter in the back, grab a canned beer from the reach-in cooler, and wait for hefty portions of slow-smoked meats, which arrive on white styrofoam trays with plastic forks and knives.

Those trays are piled high with smoked chicken quarters drizzled with a sweet version of Alabama’s signature white barbecue sauce. Meaty pork ribs have an excellent char beneath a thick, sticky red glaze, and long strands of pulled pork deliver a smoky punch from their dark brown bark.

You can also get those smoked meats piled inside ginormous “stuffed taters,” which overflow with pulled pork or chicken, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and bacon. The sides stick to time-tested Southern staples like creamy potato salad, gooey mac ‘n cheese, and deviled eggs.

At the other five SAW’s locations the menus vary a bit, with some offering burgers and cocktails alongside the smoked meats. A long-running customer favorite is the hearty creation known as “goodness & greens”: a base of creamy yellow cheese grits piled high with tender turnip greens, smoky pork or chicken, and a mound of crisp-fried onion rings.

Top all that off with a cup of banana pudding, and it’s little wonder that Southern Living’s readers have declared SAW’s the best barbecue spot in the state of Alabama.

Menu Highlights

Since SAW's bbq is located in Southern Living's hometown, we asked the editors to share their go-to orders. (Note that menus vary at different locations.)

"If you've never had the Pork N' Greens, you must order it next time you go. A bed of cheese grits, collard greens, pulled pork, and topped with onion rings." - Andy Estill, Production Director

"Don't miss the Pork N' Greens or Sweet Tea Fried Chicken. And be sure to try the Fried Okra appetizer." – Tara Massouleh McCay, Travel & Culture Editor

"Order the Chicken Baker with white sauce instead of the regular BBQ sauce. And don't forget the Bushwacker." - Ivy Odom, Editorial Producer

"I love their Fried Shrimp Sandwich, and always order the Fried Okra when it's in season." - Daniel Boone, Associate Art Director

"I know barbecue is their specialty, but their burger is one of my favorites in town. And the Banana Pudding is out of this world." - Betsy Cribb, Homes & Features Editor

"The Smoked Chicken Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries, and Deviled Eggs. Plus, order plenty of white sauce for dipping! - Jenna Sims, Digital Editor

Senior Digital Food Editor Kimberly Holland declares their Ribs the best around, while Photo Assistant Turner Spottswood claims you can never go wrong with the Chicken. Ivy Odom agrees that the Chicken Wings should not be overlooked. Associate Digital Editor Mary Shannon Hodes recommends the Frozen Pink Lemonade and Fried Pickles. Finally, Photo Director Jeanne Clayton says: "their Sauce is the star."

How to Visit SAW's Barbecue Joint

SAW's BBQ, Homewood, AL: 1008 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL; (205) 879-1937

SAW's Soul Kitchen, Avondale, AL: 215 41st Street S, Birmingham, AL; (205) 591-1409

SAW's Juke Joint, Crestline, AL: 115 Dunston Ave, Birmingham, AL; (205) 745-3920

SAW's BBQ, Hoover, AL: 3780 Riverchase Village, Hoover, AL; (205) 315-4637

SAW's BBQ, Leeds, AL: 6200 Grand River Blvd. E. Suite 510; (205) 352-9180

SAW's BBQ, Southside, AL: 1154 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL; (205) 224-4408

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