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A month into Birmingham BBQ gig, Rodney Scott is feeling the love and the 'learning curve'

rodney scott pit.jpg (copy)

Rodney Scott, winner of the James Beard Best Chef Southeast in the smoke pit at his King Street restaurant Thursday, May 10, 2018 in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/ Staff

Nearly a month after opening his second location in Birmingham, Ala., Rodney Scott is adjusting to having two restaurants.

“It’s a learning curve when you open a restaurant,” Scott said. “I’ve now experienced that twice.”

Part of the learning curve has been regularly making the seven-hour drive back and forth between Charleston and Birmingham.

“The biggest challenge is there are two time zones,” he said. “When you’re driving, you lose track of what time it is.”

Barbecue lovers in Birmingham are happy Scott made the trip. 

Opening day of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in downtown Birmingham was, as Scott said, “chaotic.” There were lines out the door and photo-ops aplenty.

Recently, Scott said he was driving down the interstate and a nearby driver yelled out of their car, “Thank you for coming to Birmingham.”

“That was two days ago,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

In the store, patrons are doing their own adjusting to Scott’s brand of barbecue, he said. He and his team have fielded questions about his vinegar-based sauce, which comes with the handwritten label, “Rodney’s sauce.”

“Some people love it; some people are not used it,” he said. “Some of them are like, ‘The sauce is thinner than we thought. Do you have mustard? Do you have an Alabama white sauce?’ That’s this region; that’s what they’re used to.”

The occasional request for white sauce isn’t the only difference between Scott’s new store and his location on King Street in Charleston, which he opened in February 2017 with partner Nick Pihakis of Jim N’ Nick’s.

In Charleston, diners who are curious about the pit house have to be pointed in the right direction — to the back of the restaurant — by an employee.

At the Birmingham shop, which seats 140 people, the pit house can be seen through a window in the dining area.

“There’s always someone who wants to see the pit,” Scott said. “We get quite a few people wanting to see how everything gets cooked. They’re like, ‘Where’s the pit house?’”

That question won’t be asked in Birmingham.

“You can easily see what we’re doing,” he said. “I’m glad we did it that way.”

Growing up in Hemingway, Scott, who won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2018, said he dreamed of “going to different places and doing big things.”

“It’s amazing how you come from a small town and you travel to these cities with your one craft — the one thing you know how to do — and you get to share that with people,” he said. “I have to say, even with the challenges, my life is amazing.”

And, he said, he’s living out his childhood dreams.

Reach Amanda Hancock at 843-937-5320. Follow her @Amanda1hancock.

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