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It’s March Madness time again. And in the state of Alabama that apparently doesn’t mean basketball. But it does mean barbecue.

And since there is no better argument than a good barbecue argument, the Alabama Tourism Department is stoking those fires again by bringing back its Alabama Barbecue Bracket, a social media contest pitting some of the state’s favorite pig palaces against each other to let voters decide whose ‘cue is Bama’s best.

Last year, as you may recall, Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, which has multiple locations around the state, edged Montgomery’s Sam’s Bar-B-Q in the finals, sparking lots of heated debate about not only the worthiness of Jim ‘N Nick’s barbecue, but how unfair it was that little ol’ smoke shacks had to compete against the big, bad chains.

But that is another argument for another day.

Today, we are here to unveil the 2014 bracket that — unlike last year, which was divided into four geographic regions – is this year divided into four barbecue specialties: ribs, chicken, pork and sauce.

The participating restaurants were selected based on social media polling conducted this past fall, according to an Alabama Tourism Department press release, and many of the restaurants in this year’s field are represented in multiple categories.

Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Dreamland Bar-B-Que and Full Moon Bar-B-Q, for instance, are nominated in all four categories — pork, ribs, chicken and sauce.

Beginning March 17, voters will be able to go to the Facebook page Facebook.com/AlabamaFood to cast their online votes in each of those categories.

Here are the first-round matchups in each of the four categories:

Pork: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q vs. Top Hat Barbecue; Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q vs. Dreamland Bar-B-Que; Saw’s BBQ vs. Bunyan’s Bar-B-Q; Full Moon Bar-B-Q vs. Whitts Barbecue.

Ribs: Dreamland Bar-B-Que vs. Rusty’s Bar-B-Q; Archibald’s B.B.Q. vs Full Moon Bar-B-Q; Smokin’ On the Boulevard vs. Big Daddy Bar-B-Q; Saw’s BBQ vs. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.

Chicken: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q vs. Saw’s BBQ; Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q vs. Dreamland Bar-B-Que; Full Moon Bar-B-Q vs. Johnny’s Bar-B-Q; Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q vs. Greenbrier Bar-B-Q.

Sauce: Dreamland Bar-B-Que vs. Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q; Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q vs. Saw’s BBQ; Archibald’s B.B.Q. vs. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q; Bob Sykes BarB-Q vs. Full Moon Bar-B-Q.

Voting in each head-to-head match-up will last for 48 hours, and those restaurants with the most votes will advance to the Sweet Sixteen, then the Elite Eight and then the Final Four.

[RELATED: Alabama has two BBQ chains on list of America's 10 best]

The competition coincides with the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – aka, “March Madness” – that also starts next week and, unfortunately, is unlikely to include any school from the state of Alabama. But at least we can be proud of our barbecue.

“Barbecue is part of our heritage,” Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell says. “The culinary tradition and cultural impact of our world-class barbecue make this bracket a source of local pride for Alabamians. “We’re excited to see what the voters define as truly the best.”

“In the inaugural Alabama Barbecue Bracket, voters determined which restaurant has the best barbecue in the state, but now voters will determine what defines the most iconic Alabama barbecue dish,” Sentell adds.

“Whether that’s a rack of ribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork or white sauce, this year’s bracket will shed light on the dishes that make our state’s barbecue portfolio so diverse. We’re excited to see what the voters define as truly the best.”

Online voting for the Final Four competitors to determine the “Alabama’s Ultimate Barbecue Champion” will begin April 2, and the winner will be announced Mon., April 7, the same day of the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Championship.

While one restaurant will take home the overall title, each of the Final Four entries will be named winners in their respective barbecue categories. And it is a possibility that one restaurant could win in all four categories.
Find out more about the Alabama Barbecue Bracket at ILoveAlabamaFood.com.

Go to the barbeque bracket site at: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/03/alabama_barbecue_bracket_2014.html#incart_river_default

 

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