George Archibald, Jr.
1211 MLK Blvd.
Northport, AL 35476
“I’ve been the barbecue business all my life.This
is just a small little place. I just build a fire and keep the fire low
and cook it slow.” – George Archibald, Jr.
A native Northport, Alabama, George Archibald spent years
working in a steel mill. His wife, Betty, worked at a paper mill. In 1962
they opened Archibald’s Bar-B-Q in their hometown. George Archibald,
Jr. was twelve years old when he started working in the family business.
Today, he and his sister, Paulette Washington, run the business their
parents started. Not much has changed—not the ribs, the vinegar-based
sauce, not even the pink interior of the place*. Loyal customers drive
up even before they open the doors at 10:30 a.m. Whether you take a plate
to go or settle into one of the picnic tables outside, you’ll savor
some legendary Alabama ‘cue.
*They finally painted over the pink. As of 2011, the interior of Archibald's is a deep red.
to this 2-minute audio clip
of George Archibald Jr. talking about the popularity of his barbecue and
the future of the business. [Windows Media Player required. Go here
to download the player for free.]
NOTE: What follows is a portion of the original interview that has been
edited for length. To download the entire transcript in PDF form, please
Subject: George Archibald, Jr.
Date: October 5, 2006
Location: Archibald’s Bar-B-Q – Northport, AL
Interviewer: Amy Evans
Amy Evans: This is Amy Evans for the Southern Foodways
Alliance on Thursday, October 5th 2006 and I’m in Northport, Alabama,
at Archibald’s Bar-b-Q, and I’m with Mr. George Archibald,
Jr. And sir, would you say your name and your birth date for the record,
Archibald: My name is George Archibald, Jr. Born May 3rd 1954.
And your parents were George and Betty Archibald?
And can you tell me about how and when they started the business and
got into the barbecue business?
Well it started back in 1962. [Short pause] They started back in 1962,
and they been going ever since. [Laughs]
Were your parents from Northport in this area originally?
What were they doing before they got into the business?
Well my father used to work at Hope [steel mill], and my mother used to
work at the paper mill.
Okay. And so what gave them the wild hair to want to cook barbecue?
Well they just wanted to get in business.
Now I can't really be in Northport and talk about barbecue without
mentioning Dreamland [Bar-B-Que restaurant, which is in nearby Tuscaloosa].
And now they opened, from what I understand, a few years before y’all
No, we was opened before Dreamland.
Okay. And so what is it about this area that you think your parents—did
they see a need for good barbecue or they just liked cooking barbecue,
or do you have any idea how that happened?
Well—well I don’t know; they just—they just wanted to
get in business and—and where I was born—well I was born and
raised on this road here, so and this was a good location so he bought
So you grew up in the house up front here?
Was this building, where the pit is and everything, was it already
back here, or did he build it?
No, it used to be owned by Morrows. Mr. James Morrows built it. Uh-hmm.
And he bought it from him.
So was your father a big cook before he got in the business? Did he
barbecue a lot for your family?
he used to barbecue a little bit, yes. But he was really at Hope.
So when did you start working with him? I mean you pretty much, I would
guess, came up in the business.
About twelve when I started.
What did you start out doing?
Well I started out cleaning up, yeah—going to get wood and stuff
And now Tuscaloosa is an important place in the Civil Rights Movement
with the integration of the University [of Alabama]. Can you share some
memories maybe of what Northport and Tuscaloosa was like back then when
you were coming up?
Well as far as I know everything was all right. [Laughs] You know you
have no rivals back in school days. But it was okay.
And when you started out was—was Archibald’s Bar-B-Q serving
basically the community here?
And when did Archibald’s become integrated?
Well we always have been. Yes, uh-huh.
All right, just everybody came for your good ribs, huh?
Can you talk about your ribs and how they’re different from anybody
else’s and what y’all do?
I don’t know. I imagine they’re about the same. We just cook
ours slow and easy, yeah.
What did you learn from your father about barbecuing?
Well just take your time. That’s—that’s mainly—that’s
about all of it—just take your time with it and that’s it.
you describe your operation here in this pit and your hose and spraying
down the fire and all that?
Well it’s just a small little place—and just build a fire
and keep the fire low, yes—and cook it slow.
Do you like being in the barbecue business?
Yes. I’ve been in it all my life.
Was your father proud that you took it over?
Yes. Yes, he decided he would leave it to me, so I guess—I guess,
And your sister works with you also, is that right? Paulette Washington?
Yes, uh-hmm. Yes, that’s her.
Did she grow up in the business also?
Yes, she did.
How do y’all share your duties here?
Well I start it up in the morning, and then she comes and releases me.
And then I come back at three [o’clock in the afternoon], and I
stay until I close.
Can you talk about making a fire and what you look for and what you
Well I just put—put a little paper on there and then put the wood
on there and then put the log and light it up.
kind of wood do you use?
I use hickory wood.
Do you have somebody regular who brings it to you?
Yes, his name is Charles Thomas, uh-hmm.
And then how about your sauce? Your sauce is really famous. Can you
talk about that a little bit without giving away any secrets?
No, that’s a secret that we can't talk about. [Laughs]
Well can you describe like the flavor of it? Because it’s so
different than a lot of sauces in Alabama.
Well that’s a secret; we can't talk about that. [Laughs]
But it’s—just for the record, it’s more of a vinegar-based
sauce. It’s more of a tangy sauce. Less tomato—.
And I know lots of folks come in here with their own jars and—and
get some to go a lot, is that right?
Yes, they do.
And your—your business here, you open at 10:30 in the morning,
and I know people are lined up at the door at 10:30. But how—how
can you explain the popularity of Archibald’s Bar-B-Q?
Just good, I guess. [Laughs] That’s all I can say. Everybody seems
to like it so it’s, you know, keep it clean and treat people right.
So that’s it.
What do you think the future of Archibald’s Barbecue is?
[Sighs] Well I think it’s going to be here a long time. Yes. My
daughter is going to take over after I step down, so I feel like it’s
going to be here a while.
What’s your daughter’s name?
And what does—what does your clientele think about that? I mean
you’ve must have had multiple generations of folks coming here to
eat your barbecue, and to see it being carried on by your daughter, that’s—that’s
Yes, they don’t want me to step down, but I know sooner or later
I’m going to have to, so she’s going to be willing to take
So what do you like best about what you do?
Well I like it—it’s a job and it just keeps you busy, and
I enjoy doing it so that’s the main thing. If you don’t like
what you do, you ain’t going to do it right. I just enjoy doing
Is there any other barbecue throughout the state or the South that
you’ve tried or that you like or have an opinion about?
No, I haven’t ate anybody else’s because I just get tired
of barbecue sometimes so—. [Laughs]
Do you have a taste of your barbecue every day?
Oh, yes, I taste it every day.
What are you looking for when you’re tasting it?
The goodness, the sweet—soft—tender, yeah—slide right
off the bone.
Because a lot of folks put you, you know, this place at the top of
the list for ribs, and a lot of folks come here and like coming here.
Do you have any idea why that it is? I mean you have great barbecue, but
do you think it’s something else there, too?
Well the way you treat people—treat them nice, right—they’ll
come back. And just keep the place clean and that’s it.
you talk about your prices a little bit and what a slab of ribs goes for
and—and other things that you offer?
Well I’m about the cheapest one around. That’s about it on
that. I’m about the cheapest, and try to keep it right.
How much does a slab go for?
A slab is $17.99, uh-hmm. Small plate is $7.50; large plate $8.50—hmm;
[Laughs]—$8.56 and sandwich $5.40. That’s about it.
Do you have any customers that come in and ask for anything special
or—or something that’s different from what anybody else might
get when they come here?
Well no, not actually—just about the same thing, yeah. Because they
know I’m a small businessman, and I ain’t got too much to
offer, but what we have is good.
Well what would you want folks who hadn't been here to Northport and
to Archibald’s to know about your barbecue and what you do?
Well I’d let them try it, and then if they say they like it, they
come back. I usually give them a taste and they come back. So that’s
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PDF form, please click here.
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