Van SykesBob Sykes Pitmaster
Van Sykes was born in 1955, the year before his parents opened their first place in the Central Park neighborhood of Birmingham. “My father was the idea person, and my mother had good business sense,” says Van Sykes. ” They both loved food and wanted to work together. Dad had grown up near Clarksville, Tennessee,and learned the barbecue art there in the 1940s by watching legendary pit man named Buck Hampton do his thing. So that became his specialty.”
By the time Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q moved to Bessemer in 1968, the enterprise had expanded to include a string of 14 franchised pits in northern Alabama and Tennessee. As a result, Bob was badly overextended and stressed out. He suffered an incapacitating stroke in 1970, and never regained his faculties. (He died in 1993.)
It was Maxine’s lot to save the business. She made a decision to sell or close all the franchises, and in 1977 she moved the restaurant to the present location. Van Sykes was still a teenager, but he had to grow up fast, and Dot helped with that as well as with the business.” Dot was really my partner,” Maxine recalls. ” She shared the responsibility. We depended on each other.” “I learned business, barbecue and life from those two strong women,” says Van. ” They don’t work here anymore, but they’re both still very much a part of the operation.”
For more than a decade, they have been barbecuing pork and chicken the
old-fashioned way, over slow fires of hickory wood. This method gives the meat a truly unique flavor, unlike any pork you’ve ever tasted: tender and succulent, with a soft and wonderful barbecue flavor that comes through gently in each and every bite. Folks say that it is the best tasting barbecue in the South.
Taken from Buy Alabama’s Best.
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