When a mechanical failure let a fire get out of control in his restaurant this past April, there may have been some resulting drama, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to Tommy Bullock. The son of the couple who started Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue 64 years ago, he grew up working the counter after school and has developed a lifetime of perspective. Maybe he sees diffculty as part of the industry. “It’s about hard work, perseverance,” Tommy says. “Back [in the 1950s], rent was $5 a week, and there were many weeks when my parents did not have that $5.”
Bullock’s kept chugging along, and in 1970, the family built the restaurant that stands today. The barbecue is excellent, but don’t forget the 20 sides offered daily. Tommy mentions stewed apples, deviled eggs, collard greens, baked beans, fruit salad, macaroni salad and fresh cooked corn. All of them are a testament not only to Tommy but also to what seems to be a kitchen full of reincarnated Southern grandmothers. If there has ever been a great cook in your family, something at Bullock’s will remind you of them.
With so many offerings, it’s probably not surprising that eventually a stove wound up in flames. “I worked around the clock to get this restaurant open,” Tommy says, “so we could serve our customers and get our employees back to work.”
Three weeks later, Bullock’s was back. Tommy reflects on the time they were closed as “this fast, furious thing,” just a crazy blip in the long life of his family’s restaurant, a quick interruption in the daily making of slow, homestyle, feel-good meals for everyone who walks in.
All the Fixins
Bullock’s serves great barbecue – of that, there’s
no doubt – but everything on the menu is worth trying. Some favorites:
- Chicken and dumplings: The cooks roll out fresh dumplings daily and simmer them in a housemade broth with pulled meat from hens. Pour your portion over the red-skinned mashed potatoes. Yes, it’s a lot of carbs. Now shush and enjoy.
- Butter beans and fresh corn: The second of our “mix-and-match” favorites, take an order of butter beans and stir in an order of corn. What you’ll get is a medley of sweet and creamy and sweet and crunchy that’s both humble and divine.
- Fried chicken: The skin is that perfect, extra-crispy goodness that’s delicious at any temperature. Hot, cold, room, whatever. It’s just going to be good. Grab some for a picnic!
- Pot roast: There’s something special about a new potato that has cooked in beef broth for what seems like since the beginning of time. Put this over the mashed potatoes, too – because, mashed potatoes.
- Pineapple cake: The 10-layer chocolate cake is rightfully revered, but know this: Tommy Bullock wears a huge golden pineapple around his neck because he loves the fruit so much. It’s a sparkly suggestion that a light, tart slice should be added to your dessert order.