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Gibson's barbecue hits N.C.

By Seth Burkett ∑ 340-2355

Big Bob Gibson's is getting bigger.

Decatur-based Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Restaurant, known for award-winning barbecue and signature white sauce, will open its first franchise location in Monroe, N.C.

A grand opening March 26 will introduce Gibson's Alabama style of barbecue to North Carolinians.

Managing member Charles Graham of Charlotte-based Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q LLC also plans to open Big Bob Gibson restaurants in the Charlotte area, as well as Nashville and Birmingham, according to a statement released Tuesday.

More locations could follow.

"Our main focus right now is to get the first one open. From there, we definitely will consider other locations," said Chris Lilly of Decatur, Gibson's vice president and head chef.

In North Carolina, an expanded version of the menu used at Gibson's two Decatur locations will include regional favorites, steaks, seafood and hamburgers, along with staples such as loaded barbecue potatoes and pork sandwiches with vinegar slaw.

The barbecue will stay the same.

"North Carolina is its own barbecue region," Lilly said. "They typically have whole hogs, and they're know for their vinegar-based sauces. It's not unlike what we do, where we take our barbecue right off the pit and let the customer decide what sort of sauce they want to use.

"This is a way to not only please the people in the Carolinas but to stay true to what we do here in Decatur."

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q began with Decatur resident Bob Gibson, known as "Big Bob" because he was 6 feet 4 and weighed 300 pounds. Out of his hand-dug pit, Gibson began serving barbecue in the 1920s from a makeshift oak plank table nailed to a sycamore tree in his backyard. He drew friends and neighbors from miles around.

Gibson's popularity grew, and in 1925 "Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Restaurant" opened its doors. Big Bob's grandson, Don McLemore, now owns the Decatur restaurants.

Gibson's Bar-B-Q has won more than 10 world barbecue championships. Lilly is an eight-time world champion barbecue pitmaster. He has appeared on NBC's "The Today Show" and on "The Al Franken Show." In 2005, the Outdoor Life Network aired a nine-episode national barbecue competition hosted by Lilly.

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