Heard’s BBQ looking to win competition taste test

Published 11:11 am Thursday, April 19, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

It was an exciting day for Heard’s BBQ in Maplesville on April 18.
Amongst the usual happy, hungry crowd was a group of three judges for the Bama’s Best Pork Ribs competition sponsored by Alabama Pork Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
The judges included pork producer Daniel Tubbs, Alabama Power’s Alabama NewsCenter and restaurant reporter Susan Swagler and competitive cook Bob Plaster.
Even before the judges could start to form their opinions of the ribs, customers were raving about the food.
“The food is outstanding, whether it’s the ribs, barbeque or the chicken it’s great,” customer Tim Little said. “The people (owners) are better than the food, if that’s possible.”
Tubbs, who serves on the state pork committee, said he was enjoying getting to visit the smaller barbeque places in the state.
Tubbs says he focuses on tenderness and taste in determining a good rack of ribs.
“I enjoy eating ribs, and I’ve been known to cook a rib or two, so I enjoy seeing the process and how they cook it, talking to the chef a little bit, hearing their stories,” Plaster said.

Plaster said he is looking for the ribs to have good taste, smell, texture, color and presentation to take the top prize.

“I love small-town Alabama, and I love the opportunity to come to these towns,” Swagler said. “When you find a place like this and everyone they are just so proud of it and they want to tell people about it.”

She said she also enjoys telling people about small, local eateries.

Swagler said she likes a little smoke flavor and sauce, but not too much, for a good rib.

“I like the rib to speak for itself, instead of the sauce,” Swagler said.

Tender, but not falling off the bone, and a little spice are also on her qualifications for a winner.

“My process for doing ribs is a little different,” Heard’s BBQ owner Roman Heard told the judges. “I don’t usually use a lot of smoke. I use more direct charcoal.”

A mustard and cayenne coat is put on the ribs before cooking to tenderize the meat.

“I usually take mine on high heat at the beginning, and then slow it down later,” Heard said.

The ribs cook for about two and a half hours.

“My wife (Shakira) makes the sauce,” Heard said. “It’s a ketchup base, instead of a vinegar base.”

The sauce has a sweet and tangy flavor.

“Our customers love it,” Heard said.

The ribs and sauce are made fresh daily. Heard said he uses the St. Louis-style cut of ribs. The restaurant’s main suppliers for meat are Merchant’s Food Service and Restaurant Depot.

He wants to get a food truck to expand and take his food to local events and job sites.

One local industry changed their lunchbreak time, so employees could eat at Heard’s BBQ.

When longtime family-friend Bobbie Agee found out Heard was opening a restaurant, she was “very excited, because this is what we needed here in Maplesville.”

Her favorite item on the menu is the ribs because of the tenderness and the taste. Agee said she is at Heard’s BBQ three or four times a week.

The winner of Bama’s Best Pork Ribs will be announced the week of April 23. The prize for first place is $500 and a feature in the Alabama Farmer’s Federation’s June Neighbors magazine.
Voting for Bama’s Best Pork Ribs was open for two months and received 900 nominations for 100 restaurants.

The contest was funded through money earmarked for promoting the pork industry.

Heard’s BBQ is located at 8341 AL-22 in Maplesville.