Longtime lurker, first time poster, but this one was worth it.
I'm from N.C., a barbecue lover, and that's taken me to joints all over the South. Among the best is one I found this week on a trip to my in-laws in south Alabama. Mark's BBQ is in Excel, a tiny town 25 minutes west off Interstate 65. My mother-in-law had some of his chicken at a catered event nearby, and she liked it so much she bought some for a pre-Thanksgiving meal for family and in-laws.
The chicken - thighs, legs and breasts - were delightful. They had a perfect smoke to them - not hickory, but something else that complemented a surprisingly complex rub. I'm not a fan of Alabama's ketchup-based bbq sauces, but I tried a couple dabs - this one was definitely ketchupy, with enough pepper to give it some zing and make it interesting. If you like that style, it's worth a try, but I'd rather let the meat speak for itself.
The chicken was some of the best I've had anywhere in the South. It was good enough that I had to call the owner, Mark (sorry, didn't get his last name), who told me that yes, he cooked with wood, not gas, and he cooked the chicken with pecan. He said he also cooked with hickory. I'm assuming that's for the pulled pork he has on the menu. I haven't tried that but will report on it the next trip south.
Meanwhile, the chicken is very much worth the 25 minute detour off the interstate. Would love to hear if anyone has the same good impression, because I'm not easily wowed.