It sounds funny — a bit ironic.

The top barbecue joint in Florida serves Alabama barbecue with a recipe brought from Alabama by a preacher from Eufaula.

Readers of "Southern Living" magazine picked out the best barbecue joint in each of their 17 Southern states – “The South’s Best List.”  In Florida, the readers picked Big John’s Alabama BBQ in Tampa.

Here is the excerpt from "Southern Living":

Big John’s is new to the South’s Best list but it’s hardly new to the Tampa Bay area. The late Rev. John A. Stephens came to East Tampa from Eufaula, Alabama, and opened Big John's in 1968. Today the restaurant is run by Stephens’s grandchildren, and though it moved into a new building in 2010, it still features splendid chicken, sausage, and ribs cooked hot and fast on an Alabama-style open pit with a giant brick chimney.; 5707 N. 40th Street Tampa, Florida 33610; 813-623-3600

Maybe when folks say, “Sweet home Alabama,” they don’t just mean the countryside and the people. Maybe they mean that the barbecue is also sweet.  Sweet home Alabama barbecue.

Here is the magazine’s description of how their readers selected the best barbecue joint in each state:

Each year we ask Southern Living’s readers to name the best barbecue restaurant in each Southern state. This time around, they seem to be in something of a traditional mood. A parade of new, highly-acclaimed barbecue restaurants have opened all over the South in recent years, but the 2024 picks lean toward the tried-and-true. 

Notably, many of the new winners this year are quite a bit older than the restaurants they replaced from last year’s poll. If my math is correct, the 15 institutions on the 2024 list represent more than 500 total years of serving top-notch Southern barbecue to hungry diners.

Sad that writer/comedian Lewis Grizzard is not alive and well. He died in 1994 of a heart condition. Eating too much pork, and other aggravating behaviors.

Grizzard was the consummate barbecue aficionado. He would have loved sampling the barbecue and the selection process. And he would have had strong feelings about which barbecue is best, since he sampled many of the barbecue joints himself. In fact, Grizzard popularized the term, “barbecue joint.” Only he spelled it using the proper Southren spelling, barbeque.   With a ‘Q.” Let’s go get some Q.”

Notice with great understanding the signage on the chimney of Big John’s Alabama B-B-Q.  With the Southren ‘Q.’  In Tampa, Florida.

“I learned the first rule about barbeque …You don’t put coleslaw on it. I think that’s in Deuteronomy somewhere.”  - Lewis Grizzard

Big John’s follows suit. No coleslaw on the Q.

“Never order BBQ from a place that also serves quiche.” - Lewis Grizzard

Big John’s does not serve quiche. 

Big John’s Alabama BBQ would have checked all the boxes, the Southren boxes, of that barbeque expert Lewis Grizzard.

Grizzard had a serious heart condition. He had to have surgery, and surgeons inserted a pig valve into his heart.

Grizzard’s comment: “Every time I pass a barbeque joint, my eyes fill with tears.”

I’m adding to my personal bucket list. Next time I’m in Tampa, Fla., I’m going to Big John’s Alabama BBQ. I’m not a Lewis Grizzard, but I am a barbeque lover and sampler and critic. I will report back.

A little piece of Alabama in Tampa.

With Lewis Grizzard being dead, the editors messed with his books and switched barbeque back to barbecue.  “It ain’t fittin’. It just ain’t fittin’.”  - Mammy, "Gone with the Wind."

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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