2910 Morgan Road, Suite 100
Bessemer, AL 35022
PH# 205-424-6639


It’s the week of October 17th and I’ll be heading to Tuscaloosa, AL for the annual Tennessee vs. Alabama football game on Saturday. Fortunately I’ll have several opportunities to stop by some of my old barbecue favorites in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. First up is Johnny Ray’s.

Let me start by saying that I was born and raised in the eastern section of Birmingham and have been a fan of Johnny Ray’s barbecue for as long as I can remember. Johnny Ray passed away last year and those of us who knew Johnny have missed his presence. He was a true barbecue legend in the Birmingham area. I can remember eating at Johnny Ray’s in the Roebuck Sopping Center back in the 60’s. That was Johnny’s first location and today there are several locations throughout Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

Ok, enough for the history lesson. We stopped by Johnny Ray’s off of I-459 in Bessemer on our way to Tuscaloosa. The restaurant is located on the end of a strip shopping center complex. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was the standard brick pit located behind the counter in the back. The Pit master was busy tending the meats; ribs, pork shoulders, chicken and checking the pit temperature. This is a common site in most barbecue restaurants in the South. You want see very many fancy smokers with all of the bells and whistles. This is true “Hickory Pit” smoked barbecue.

The three of us sat down at our table and were promptly greeted by our waitress. The menu had not changed since my last visit at the Montgomery Highway location a couple of years ago. Todd chose the rib plate with slaw and fries, Jason and I each choice the chopped pork plate with beans and fries. I asked for my pork to be mixed with inside and outside meat. After a short wait our food arrived. Todd’s rib plate was huge with an ample amount of ribs full of meat. These things were more like dinosaur ribs. The pork plates were full with meat and sides. Mine had a great mix of inside and outside meat. I really enjoyed the taste of the dark outside meat and tender chopped inside meat. Johnny Ray’s sauce is a vinegar/tomato base, sweet with plenty of interesting spices, complements the meat without over powering.

The three of us were completely full when we finished and decided to skip Honey’s famous pies for dessert. Honey is Johnny’s wife and over the years she has developed some of the best tasting pies you will find anywhere. All of the Johnny Ray’s restaurants feature Honey’s pies and I would recommend trying any and all of them.