On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Johnny’s Barbecue In Cullman Alabama

Johnny's Barbecue In Cullman Alabama

Johnny’s Barbecue In Cullman Alabama

When I was in culinary school in Birmingham, Alabama I was always ranging around the state on barbecue missions and trying to establish a hierarchy of the best smoked pork houses. That’s how I found the little town of Cullman, a straight shot up I-65 from Bham and only 45 minutes away from my house on the Southside of the Magic City.

Cullman was founded in 1873 by Colonel Johann Gottfried Cullmann, a German emigree who had migrated to the United States in 1866, landing first in New York before answering his frontiersman’s spirit and traveling to Alabama. The Colonel ended up buying over 300k acres of land and settled it with thousands of fellow immigrants happy to begin their new life in Northern Alabama.

This set the stage for the commercial success of the region; fueled by hardworking Germans, north central Alabama was quickly developed and settled leading to the long-term success of such industries as lumber, aerospace and farming.

A Pound Of Hickory Smoked Barbecue From Johnny's In Cullman Alabama

A Pound Of Hickory Smoked Barbecue From Johnny’s In Cullman Alabama

Johnny’s Bar-B-Q was opened in 1949 by Johnny Graves. The original restaurant had a 14 year run before Mr Graves sold out to Troy and Aleata Wiggins in 1963. Graves had seller’s remorse and tried to coax the Wiggins into selling his restaurant back to him the next day but they refused; enraged, Graves opened a Johnny’s #2 but failing health led him to shutter the business and Graves career as a pit boss was finished.

In 1976 Johnny’s moved lock, stock and barrel down the road into a spanking new, and much larger facility that they still occupy today.

This is the building where I first broke bread in the mid-80s. Alabama is hog country and the farmers of that state have long been among the top swine producers in all of USA. When you walk into Johnny’s don’t expect to buy brisket by the pound as there is none. What you will find is pork and plenty of it. My former order of a jumbo outside slice pork sandwich has long since been supplanted by a pound of pork and an order of house-cut french fries. I eat all I can then have my waitress package up the rest so I can continue my travels.

A bottle of their homemade sauce always finds its way into my bag before I head out the door.

A Big Pile Of Hickory Wood Fuels The Smoker At Johnny's Barbecue In Cullman Alabama

A Big Pile Of Hickory Wood Fuels The Smoker At Johnny’s Barbecue In Cullman Alabama

Nowadays I only make it to Cullman once a year.

There’s a new crop of workers at Johnny’s these days. Some of my favorite waitresses like Lucy Justice and Mildred Marlow have retired after decades of service and have been replaced by new gals who still put their hand on their hip and say “what’ll ya have hon?”

When Archibald’s slipped after Mr George retired, I shifted my focus north and east from Northport to Cullman where the Wiggins family continues to put out the best hickory smoked barbecue in north Alabama.

Johnny’s Barbecue
1401 4th St SW
Cullman, AL

Hours Of Operation
Sunday Closed
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10AM–9PM
Wednesday 10AM–9PM
Thursday 10AM–9PM
Friday 10AM–9PM
Saturday 10AM–9PM

History of Johnny’s credit Cullman Today

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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