James, a former soccer coach who spent a dozen years as an assistant to Paul “Bear” Bryant, started the business in 1986 with his wife, Eloise. They called it Pat James’ Full Moon Bar-B-Que. David and Joe, sons of Lebanese immigrants, bought the original Birmingham location in 1997. The brothers have stayed true to the initial vision with colorful, sport-focused decor celebrating favorite regional teams; dishes made from scratch; and practical participation in the business. Perhaps most importantly, they have always used walnut wood pots to cook meats. They have five large, portable wells, allowing them to cook Full Moon barbecue anywhere, feeding groups of 10 to (once restrictions are removed) 10,000.
David says these firewood pits make a difference. “We are passionate about making barbecue well. That is why all of our stores still have firewood pits. And we do it the old-fashioned way: fresh, from scratch, every day. We cook our meat slowly and slowly in front of our customers, and they see it, smell it, taste it. And that’s what kept us thriving through the years. “
During its tasty 35-year history, Full Moon Bar-B-Que has brought together fans from across the country. It is blatantly said to be the “Best Pig House in Alabama,” but Full Moon offers a comfortable, family atmosphere that has served generations and appeals to all nationalities, David says. “We are really great at making the customer feel good. That is our job. When you walk into our home, we make you feel warm and welcome. We are here to make you happy.
Full Moon was named one of the 10 best barbecue restaurants in the United States by the Huffington Post. The restaurant’s red and white sauces are found on grocery store shelves along with the exclusive chow-chow, served on every sandwich.
Full Moon features two items on Alabama’s list of 100 dishes to eat before you die: the crispy vinaigrette salad and the freshly baked Half Moon nut and chocolate chip cookies (half dipped in shiny dark chocolate). Both items are made according to Eloise James’ original recipes.
When Alabama dining rooms closed due to the coronavirus, the brothers simply continued with self-service, take-out, and curbside pickup. The dining rooms, except at the Southside and UAB locations, are now open again at 50% of capacity. They also have a food truck, and they continue to deliver with dozens of trucks painted in bright, big, smiling moons.
David says there really wasn’t much pivot, besides closing the dining rooms. “We were already prepared for self-service, catering (and) on the sidewalk. That is our model. We got stronger in that regard, but we have been doing it forever. You know, we are one of the few restaurants that can have a full menu like the one we have on the self-service menu. So it’s automatic for us to thrive in a situation like this, because we do it every day. “Plus, he adds, the barbecue travels well.
Than have However, the expanded health and safety precautions at each restaurant have changed, says Joe. Things like maintaining social distance between tables, hanging Plexiglas between booths, regular temperature controls for employees, masks and gloves for everyone who works there, extra attention to disinfect surfaces and wash things in the kitchen.
“We have to take these steps every day to keep our employees safe, to keep our guests safe,” says Joe. “That is the most important thing right now.”
Employees, some of whom have been with Full Moon for decades, have accepted the challenge, he adds. “Everyone is on board. They have been problematic throughout the process. ”
“I am proud of our people,” says David. “Being in the restaurant business is quite difficult. Then adding all these measurements in addition to their jobs. You must remember that these guys wear a mask in the kitchen! It is difficult for them. It’s hard for us to handle it because we’ve never been through something like this before, right? That is our duty … we have to keep everyone safe. We will do whatever it takes to keep our business prosperous and our employees safe. Whatever is needed.
“Our employees are doing a great job, and our franchisees are doing a great job,” he adds. “They are part of us. So when they do the things that we’re doing, you just have to be proud of everyone right now. “
The Full Moon has long been known for the scratched southern sides, such as kale, baked beans, fried green tomatoes, potato salad, fried okra, and macaroni and cheese. But over the years, the brothers have expanded the offerings to suit a variety of tastes and lifestyles, adding freshly made salads topped with a meat of their choice, hand-breaded chicken fillets, and giant baked potatoes stuffed with meat and garnishes. They put wings (Buffalo and smoked) on the menu several years ago, and fried catfish (farm-raised in Mississippi) is extremely popular.
But it is the tasty smoked barbecue that is most famous here, especially pork. Whether you chop it into chunks or order it into slices, you’ll want to order it like regular customers do, with “a little bit of the outside meat” mixed in. There are classic pork ribs and ribs. The skirt is Black Angus cattle. Smoked chicken, turkey, and spicy pork links are other options.
All this food is made with recipes from decades and traditional techniques; It is comforting and familiar. And it makes people happy.
In March, the brothers began a “Feed a Friend” campaign, and extended it until June. For years, David and Joe have quietly worked behind the scenes with churches, schools, and nonprofits, but had to enlist the help of people on restaurant email lists to find families in need.
When the pandemic hit, David says: “We saw many unemployed, jobless, hungry people. He broke my heart; it broke my brother’s heart. “
Every week, they receive 300 to 400 responses to their Feed a Friend query. They review these messages every day, identify needy families, and then send food home. “I will tell you,” says David, “the reactions we receive … will bring tears to your eyes. When they hear that they are being fed today … they are overwhelmed with joy. … It is anonymous, who suggested they need food. What We drive to your front door. We don’t say a word to you except: “Enjoy.”
“We have received a great response,” says David. “We don’t advertise much of this, and we don’t want to advertise it. This is from our hearts to the community. And I don’t care who it is, whether they were our clients or not. That doesn’t matter. We need to feed the children and families in our community and support them when we can. ”
The brothers do this every day, and sometimes feed two or three families a day. But that is not all.
“It is a wonderful feeling in your heart to do something for others,” says Joe. “Feeding the first responders, feeding the nurses during the nurses week, feeding the firefighters. We are not doing it only in Birmingham, we are doing it in Tuscaloosa, we are doing it in Auburn, we are doing it in Montgomery. We’re just … trying to help our community when they need it. “
Full Moon Bar-B-Que
Locations in Alabaster, Dothan, Fultondale, Homewood, Hoover, Inverness, Jasper, McCalla, Montgomery, Opelika, Pelham, Southside in Birmingham, Trussville, Tuscaloosa and UAB’s Hill Student Center.
Check individual locations for current times.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)