Restaurant Revisited: The Writing on the Wall at Bama Q

by in Shows, May 28th, 2014

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleBefore Robert Irvine got to work on the failing Big Jim’s Bama Q in Hammondville, Ala., he talked with Big Jim himself, who, while no longer the owner of the restaurant, was able to tell Robert stories of a once-successful venture at the barbecue-focused eatery, ultimately proving that the business could be profitable. The new owner of Big Jim’s, Daniel Millican, had failed to make the business his own, leaving nearly all of the original leader’s menu, decor and practices in place. With time, Daniel had become disconnected from the restaurant after spending much of his time away at his other business, a sawmill, and Robert questioned whether Daniel wanted to be involved going forward. It took Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team two days and $10,000 to inspire Daniel, overhaul the mismatched design, establish new processes for tuning out authentic barbecue and, in perhaps the most-dramatic update, change the name of the business to simply Bama Q. Read on below to hear from Daniel and his sister-in-law, Carolyn, the former assistant manager of the restaurant, in an exclusive interview and find out how his business is faring today.

Bama Q is earning almost $1,000 more per week than before its Impossible transformation, and Carolyn notes: “Everyone loves the inside of the restaurant. A lot of people are responding to the floors, the tables, the chicken wire. … It feels much more open and welcoming.”

While Robert noticed that food might have a tendency to get cold in the old space, Daniel confirms that since the renovation, “I’ve not heard any complaints about food coming out cold anymore. The food is coming out very quickly.”

Daniel says he’s now invested in Bama Q, explaining, “After Robert left, it felt like a good revival. I’ve got passion in it; I’m determined to make it work.” Carolyn agrees and notices the difference. “Daniel is dealing with things better as a boss,” she says. “He realizes he has to take a stand about the business.” She adds, “The time he’s spent in the restaurant is a better quality.”

As for her role at the restaurant, Carolyn says, “I’m not back in there working — still figuring out if I’ll jump in with both feet.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Cave Inn BBQ (May 21)
Bumbinos Italian Ristorante (April 30)
Bryant’s Seafood World (April 23)
Urban Roots (April 9)
gratifi kitchen + bar (April 2)
Mama Della’s N.Y. City Pizzeria (March 26)
Pasión Latin Fusion (March 19)
Tootie’s Texas BBQ (March 12)
Mill Creek BBQ Restaurant (March 5)
Estrada’s Restaurant (February 5)
Hillbillies Restaurant (January 29)
Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill (January 15)
Heather’s Country Kitchen (January 1)
Goombazz Big City Eatzz (December 18)
LBI Pancake House (December 8)
Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company (December 8)
Mike La Susa’s Italian Restaurant (December 4)
Seven (November 27)
Georgia Boy Cafe (November 20)
Coach Lamp Restaurant & Pub (November 13)
The Windsor 75 (November 6)
Ducky’s Family Restaurant (October 30)
Mama Campisi’s Restaurant (October 23)
Aponte’s Pizzeria (August 25)
Benner Street (July 28)
Hurley’s American Grille (July 21)
Kalico Kitchen (July 14)
Angelo’s (June 23)
Pier West Restaurant (June 16)
Pinehurst Country Lodge (June 9)


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Comments (68)

  1. Bedoneit says:

    I enjoyed the pork sandwich very much before the renovation and stopped by to see what the improvement had done. I literally threw the sandwich out the car window after one bite. The brioche bun was old and dry. The pork was good meat and stacked high, but it was as dry as sawdust, had no pickle, miniscue sauce , no mayo- nothing. Could not take a second bite.
    Kudos to the design team for making a nice look from nothing, but the "new" recipes suck. Extremely disappointing. Go back to the old sandwich before you have to lock the door!
    Best of luck to the owners. Good people!

  2. Rick says:

    I can hardly believe all the poor reviews. Took the family there and everyone loved the food. I had the pulled pork and loved it. The sauce was great. Everyone agreed that the Mac-n-cheese was excellent. Next time I'm in the area we will be back for more.

  3. linda from Mentone says:

    I got take out a week or so ago. Waited 45 minutes. Watched as tables stayed dirty, as people waited to pay and waited to be seated. There was no one to clean off tables and run cash register except waitresses, who seemed distracted. Restaurant was not full. Got food home and 2 of 4 orders were wrong. My
    Barbeque skimpy. I will go back when someone else runs it. They need more employees, more training for employees,and need to work on food or the great work Robert did will be for nothing. Restaurant looks great and is in a great location. I hope they work out their problems but I don't plan on returning.

  4. JULIAN FINLEY says:


  5. Part one of new review.

    I went back to the restaurant a couple weeks ago. Fair disclosure. As a result of my previous negative review, I was invited back, offered free cake, etc. I did not take them up on that offer. I did not want my review to be influenced or for it to seem I had been bought off. Also, I have never worked for either Big Jim or Danial and have no affiliation with the restaurant at all, except as a customer. I know neither the previous owners or the current ones. What I write is my honest review with no agenda, despite the insinuations of Carolyn.
    I went in as just another customer, said nothing to them about who I post as, or that I'd reviewed or anything like that. I just went in, sat down, ordered, ate and then paid for my food. (You can read that review below. I reiterate there is a difference in using ketchup as an ingredient to BBQ sauce and adding a few ingredients to ketchup and calling it BBQ sauce. Bad move Robert).

    They have changed the menu again and I approve. It is back to simple food but still with some variety. They brought back the hamburgers (which I think Danial probably owned it last I had their hamburger and it was really good. I was glad to see it back and would have ordered it if not for the fact I thought I should order the same thing as before for a true comparison.

    I liked the pulled pork sandwich better this time. It had a better meat to bread ratio and they added a pickle and lettuce and some condiment on the bun so it wasn't as dry. Not the best I've eaten, but far from the worst (which was the previous sandwich I'd eaten from them.) The cole slaw no longer goes with the sandwich though and has to be ordered separately now. The collard cole slaw was the one hit of the new stuff, IMO. It is good.

    One thing that still bothers me is having to make sure I have cash with me. I stopped by the ATM in Fort Payne before going. Why? Because they process the cards on their phone. I don't like that. I can see if it was at Trade Day or somewhere that a landline can't be set up, but I think it is unprofessional for an established restaurant to use their phone app to process credit or debit card. I don't trust that and think less of a business who does that.

    When I was there, around 4-5 pm on a Thursday, there wasn't many people there. Maybe one other customer or maybe 2. Anyway, I did get great service (thanks, Amanda. At least that is what she said her name was.) My tea never got below half full and I appreciate that. She was very pleasant and attentive. I appreciated that as well. I hope the service is just as good with more people there.

    The same dessert I had before wasn't on the menu. I ordered the banana pudding instead. First off, I always give credit if the banana pudding is made from scratch as God intended banana pudding to be made. Their's was from scratch and not made with instant banana pudding. The portion size was good. You get a bowl full. Another plus. The taste was okay too. Again, not the best I've had, but not the worst either. I didn't eat much of mine though. The black bananas put me off. And the texture was odd too. It didn't affect the taste, really. It was fine. It was an okay dessert overall. Again, not the best, not the worst. It was okay. If the bananas had just been a little darkened, but they were a lot darken to the point of being black. Which tells me it was probably a few days old. The meringue was not light and fluffy either.

    Bama Q has improved a lot since the day we ate there (the day after the opening.) It still needs improving in some areas. (black bananas). I like the current menu ( or as it was a couple weeks ago) better. It is not as pretentious. It has food people eat every day instead of food you'd just order on a special occasion. For a place like that, small bbq, in a small town, etc. They will need to bring in every day customers instead of special occasion customers. The menu they had at this visit reflected that.

    She did ask me how it was everything when I paid. I told them it was fine. It was fine. Not great, but not bad either. I didn't feel like I had just thrown my money away as before. So that is a huge improvement right there.

    • I've been reading through the reviews. I find it very odd and suspicious that every single person who gave a negative review got thumps down for their comments. Tell me it isn't someone with an agenda voting?

      • From reading another review, I just found out that they are still boiling the food in plastic. It ight be expensive food saver bags, but that is still plastic.

        That is a negative for me.

  6. Jamie Allison says:

    We have eaten there two times. The first time was okay, but the second time we went there was one table of people there. We were seated and told there was an order ready to go out and the waitress would be right back to take our order. We sat there for over 15 minutes and no one came to take our order. The lady finally came back and took it without an apology for the wait. It was okay,but it was over priced for the amount of food we received. They also were telling another customer that they had to take off the changes that Robert had made on the show. So, they are back to the one sauce. I really liked Mr. Mcmillan and want him to suceed,but I think they should stick with what Robert suggested on the show.

  7. local residents says:

    Anyone interested the Bama Q Restaurant has changed hands again .No longer Daniels …. . seems the owners of Sunshine Café who has moved to several locations and closed all of them and made the newspaper for not paying their rent at other location has now taken over Bama Q .We wish Daniel Luck and hope that maybe someone with a knowledge of Good Restaurant Management and knows what People like to eat and a Good Cook will eventually take over this place and put a real restaurant in their … Too Bad Country Boys was Flooded and closed ….. Good Luck ..

    • Lee Garen says:

      sorry to hear this…our idea of taking a drive from Franklin, N.C. to check out Daniel's was just crushed.
      This episode really made us want to try it following the changes Robert made. Oh well….
      Lee and Linda

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