Someone finds out where they’re setting up, spreads the word and everyone meets up, stands in line and talks about how they were the first to know about them.
I’d heard about Smoke N’ Hot from so many people that I was glad to finally see for myself the big black trailer flying the American and Irish flags. The business is owned by Greg Stay, an Alabama native, and his wife Mary-Anne, from Ireland, hence the two flags.
Also like a really good, genuine rock band, the Stays have a devoted following, and for good reason.
I ordered a pulled-pork barbecue plate, which comes with two sides. I chose the Irish cole slaw and Irish potato salad.
The sandwich was overflowing with sweet, flavorful barbecue, and it’s completely Southern, said Mary-Anne Stay, who took some time away from the groupies to talk about the food. No sense messing with a good thing.
It’s the sides that have a little Irish magic in them. The cole slaw has a subtle, sweet-and-spicy kick that comes on slow but isn’t overpowering. The recipe is from Mary-Anne’s grandmother — and no, you can’t have it. I asked.
A tip from Stay — put a dab of the Irish slaw on the barbecue sandwich. I did. It was awesome.
I’ve never been a huge potato salad fan, but their Irish potato salad had me like a good rock ballad. It was just the right kind of tart, and mixed with some mystery Irish spices that were all the better because I’ll never find out what they are.
I brought my kids with me and ordered them several leprechaun piglets — small barbecue sandwiches on fresh, square buns — and ended up eating one myself. Great size for kids, but also good for dads who can’t eat their huge barbecue sandwich while driving.
They sell ribs as well, and from time to time sell daily specials not on the menu, such as smoked chicken breasts and pasta salad. They cater too, and can handle events as big as family reunions and weddings.
Mary-Anne met Greg when he was overseas serving during the Iraq War. They both moved back to Alabama and started their business in April 2011.
“We went to all the places and tasted their food and knew what we didn’t want to be like,” Stay said, adding that she’s certain being mobile means they’ve got a much broader fan base.
“We’ve done very little advertisement … It’s just us being out and word of mouth,” Stay said.
During my visit, both Mary-Anne and Greg were greeting customers by name, and the customers themselves told me they don’t miss the chance to drive out to wherever the black trailer is to load up on barbecue.
Do the Irish make barbecue, I asked? Not exactly, Mary-Anne said.
“Barbecue in Ireland is getting a grill out and grilling hamburgers,” Stay said. “Why would you smoke it? They just don’t understand it.”
A bit of a rarity, it was snowing and sleeting during Greg’s first trip to Ireland to meet the in-laws.
“And he’s out there with a barbecue grill with ribs, and all my family are sitting in the window and he’s the crazy American in his shorts with his parka on cooking ribs,” Stay said.
Crazy or not, barbecue “Southern style with an Irish twist” — as is written across the trailer — works very well. All they need now is a guy standing by the trailer selling T-shirts with their logo. Maybe offer up backstage passes?
Smoke N' Hot BBQ
Smoke N Hot BBQ often sets up for business Wednesday-Saturday, but that can change according to the weather.
Some common spots you’ll find them are Southern Used Cars in Oxford, Fuller’s Gas Station on U.S. 431 just south of the Anniston Cemetery and the Lighting Showroom in Anniston, but they post their route schedule and any changes to the schedule on their Facebook page at facebook.com/SmokeNHotBBQ.
The can be reached by phone at 256-310-1372, and a full menu can be found at http://www.smoke-n-hotbbq.com.