I'm about to blow up the spot of a local business owner and someone who I consider a friend.

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JR Shepherd is the owner of Big Al's BBQ in Oneonta located at 33 Dietz Street. I first met JR when I moved back to Oneonta from Charleston, SC. He had just moved up from North Carolina. I had invited him to come and sell his BBQ at an event I was in charge of. We hit it off right away, bonding over a cup of pot likker, the juice that's left over when making real deal collards.

While I gushed over southern cooking, and how I missed it, he detailed his dream of opening up a brick and mortar location that served the best of the flavors he grew up with. Having tried his meats and sides, I knew he was on to something. I'm snobby to a fault about the authenticity of my food, and this is the real deal, as good as items I've had in the Carolinas.

When his permanent spot opened on Dietz Street, I filmed a live video promoting the business. It was what you'd expect, two food nerds going back and forth, exposing their love for cuisine. He threw bits and pieces of the whole menu at me, and I happily gobbled up every morsel.

His BBQ and soul food tinged sides are amazing. Get a bucket of smack and cheese, you'll thank me. There's nowhere else I'll eat fried chicken in the area. Also, Cheerwine. If you know, you know.

While JR's food is amazing, he's a damn fine example of a human being, and is constantly looking to give back to the community. This is the definition of a Southern Gentleman.

For Thanksgiving tomorrow November 23rd, Big Al's BBQ will be being giving away turkey dinners for free to the community from 11am-5pm or until the food is gone. Included is smoked or fried turkey, green bean casserole, smack n cheese, corn bread, pie and drinks. He will also have canned food and non perishable items available.

Big Al's BBQ via Facebook
Big Al's BBQ via Facebook
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(The date in the flyer has a typo, this is happening 11/23/2023)

JR had this to say for his efforts: "I’ve been doing this with my family for years. Thanksgiving is a time when a lot people gather together for food and fellowship and we want to make sure as many people in our community are able to participate. This being a college town along with there being a sizeable number of less fortunate, we almost feel it our duty to make sure they’re not denied this day of food and fellowship. Anything we can do to give back to our community, we will always step up and do our part."

Not all heroes wear capes. Thank you, JR, for leading by example.

Oneonta and Otsego County Barbecue Trail