Name: SAW’s Soul Kitchen
Address: 215 41st St S, Birmingham, AL 35222
Order: Two meat combo platter with pork and sausage with collards, slaw, and cheese grits (link to menu)
Monk: SAW’s BBQ owner Mike Wilson (or SAW which is an acronym for “Sorry Ass Wilson”) originally grew up in Charlotte and in the early 2000’s was working as a sous chef at Dean & Deluca in Charlotte fresh out of culinary school at Johnson and Wales (though the Vail location, not the Charlotte one). Eventually he found himself back in Alabama – he went to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for undergrad – working at a restaurant in Birmingham and doing barbecue on the side. In 2009, an opportunity to take over a closing barbecue restaurant presented itself. Wilson opened the original location of SAW’s BBQ in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood shortly thereafter. Since 2009, SAW’s has grown to six locations in the greater Birmingham area. Those six locations include the Avondale location the Monk family (plus Monk uncles!) found itself on a recent Friday this summer while visiting family.
Each SAW’s location has a slightly different name and menu and for Avondale it’s “SAW’s Soul Kitchen” with the barbecue staples but menu offerings that are more southern soul food (think fried chicken, patty melts, and fried green tomato BLT’s). This location is a cozy, no-frills restaurant where customers order at the bar and then seat themselves either at the bar or one of the handful of tables or booths in the small-ish restaurant.
The Monk Uncles had arrived just before us and took the liberty of ordering a bowl of pork rinds that were still warm upon our arrival. They were light and tasty, and a nice way to kick off the meal.
I shared a two meat combo platter of pork and sausage with Mrs. Monk, adding a third side of collards to the vinegar-based slaw and cheese grits we ordered as our two sides that come with the meal. In terms of the meats, both were above average without being outstanding. Both come standard with a vinegary-sweet sauce that was drizzled over but I added the vinegar table sauce to the pork to further cut that sweetness. The sausage was a standard smoked sausage with no cheese or other filler besides the ground meat.
To be honest, the sides kind of outshone the meats for me. I liked the fact that SAW’s has a vinegar-based slaw (perhaps a nod to Wilson’s NC roots) and it worked with the meat as a native-North Carolinian would expect. Although I only had a couple of tastes, the cheese grits were a highlight of the meal. And the collards were Mrs. Monk-certified.
Sadly, found and owner Mike Wilson passed away in late 2020 from a heart attack at the age of 46 but the legacy of SAW’s Barbecue lives on in the six Birmingham-area locations. Based on this visit, I could see SAW’s Soul Kitchen being a regular stop if I were ever to become a resident of the The Magic City.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pulled Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sausage– 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs