Remember way back when, when Big Al's worked out of a food truck? I do, because my first meal with Big Al was during a downtown Raleigh food truck rally in City Center. I ordered up a half-rack of ribs and quickly realized I had no interest in gnawing on my meat in the middle of the street. So I walked back a mile and a half carrying a styrofoam container full of deliciousness. Up on Fayetteville Street, across on Hillsborough, up West. Eventually I made it home and had a great meal, what I'm willing to do for great ribs and brisket! And that is exactly what Big Al's dishes out. His new storefront in N. Raleigh was a bit of a challenge, located way up on 401 in a new shopping plaza. Spacious with lots of windows and sunlight, I headed over to the counter to grab my order of Al's smoked meats. Didn't get to eat at the restaurant but it's a comfortable looking space, casual and good for families.
When I got home, I inventoried my meal and there was a LOT of food. Full-rack of ribs, brisket, baked beans, corn bread, hush puppies, and cole slaw. But eating barbeque isn't a sprint, it's a meaty marathon! The star at Big Al's as you can guess, is the smoked meats. The ribs were tasty baby-back ribs with a nice smoke ring and dry-rub. I added on my own Stubb's BBQ sauce which made for a nice contrast. The meat was tender and quite lean, Big Al's uses quality meats. The brisket was also very good with a bit of charred bits on the outside, lean and tasty on the inside. The sides are where Big Al's could use a bit of help. Their hush-puppies are excellent, fried to a thick, crunchy crust but the rest of the sides were pretty average. But hey, when the barbeque is this good, you can deal with less than perfect sides, right? It's a long haul up to Big Al's for me but if I lived in the area, I'd probably come out for a visit once a month or so. While it's not cheap, he does an excellent job with his smoked meats. I've just got my fingers crossed that they work a bit on the sides to make 'em as good as the barbeque.
Big Al's BBQ - Reviewer: Ron Wen - Rating: 4 out of 5 stars