‘Crazy Good’

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Swamp Monster BBQ serves up classics with New Orleans flavors

By Emily Sparacino

Photos by Dawn Harrison

Mike O’Connor claims he got into the restaurant industry by accident, but the Louisiana-inspired flavors he brings to the table at Swamp Monster BBQ in Hoover are intentional.

While on weekend trips to the lake with family and friends, O’Connor became a grill master of sorts, experimenting with homemade meat rubs for his barbecue.

After extensive research and testing, O’Connor arrived at his ultimate rub, a dry rub for his barbecue that “makes it special,” he said.

He knew he had a winning recipe when his wife, Michelle, took the rub to work one day and was asked if Mike was selling it.

“She said, ‘He is now,’” Mike said, laughing. “That’s how it all began.”

The Pelham couple started their Swamp Monster BBQ catering business about five years ago. In August, they opened their restaurant under the same name at 1843 Montgomery Highway S.

Mike, who is originally from New Orleans, infuses Cajun flavor into Swamp Monster’s dishes, which feature pork, chicken, ribs and beef.

“Everything is good,” Mike said. “We have a hamburger that’s crazy good.”

Boudreaux’s Burger is a premium burger made with ground sirloin, brisket and short rib, served on Gambino’s French bread and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles.

The BBQ Burger features the Boudreaux sirloin burger topped with smoked barbecue, sauce and slaw. According to the menu, “This burger could change your life.”

“It’s a top-notch burger, so it’s got flavor,” Mike said.

Headlining the sandwich list is the BBQ Po-Boy, which involves slow-cooked pork or chicken served on French bread. It can be made-to-order Boston style or Memphis style for an additional 75 cents.

Other options are the rib sandwich, an open-faced sandwich featuring a portion of Swamp Monster’s smoked ribs, and the Monster, a “massive” New Orleans-style sandwich for two or three people featuring pork or chicken on a muffuletta bun.

“With the sandwiches, everything is served with Gambino’s French bread,” Mike said. “We have their bread brought in.”

Plates on the menu include a barbecue plate, salad options (“Gator Greens” with pork or chicken and choice of dressing, to be exact), a stuffed potato, barbecue nachos (Boudreaux’s Nachos with tortilla chips or Nacho Nachos with Cajun pork rinds), red beans and rice and smoked wings.

When people ask Mike for advice on what to order, he turns the question back to them.

“Everything’s so different, so I tell people whatever you’re in the mood for,” Mike said. “The portions are pretty big. Everybody says they don’t leave hungry.”

Most of the sides at Swamp Monster are Michelle’s recipes.

The Mardi Gras Slaw features the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and yellow with a mixture of red cabbage (purple), green bell peppers and yellow bell peppers.

Red beans and rice, Grandma’s “Nana” pudding and the New Orleans style bread pudding are Mike’s mother’s recipes.

The other desserts, listed with #gillisPIES on the menu, are made and brought in by a local man, Mike said.

Freshly fried and seasoned pork rinds are a complimentary appetizer at each table.

Swamp Monster BBQ’s alligator mascot, Boudreaux, came from a vision Mike sketched on a napkin with pencil.

“I had a vision of an alligator,” he said.

And as for the reasoning behind the name “Swamp Monster,” Mike said he wanted something that would stand out in customers’ minds.

“It’s memorable,” he said of Swamp Monster. “It has nothing to do with barbecue.”

Michelle said the couple is excited to have a building and to be a permanent part of the Hoover community.

“It’s been a journey,” she said. “Who knew it would turn into this? We have fun, whatever we’re up to.”

Swamp Monster BBQ is open Monday–Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The restaurant offers dine-in, to-go and catering services. Pete Cooper is the manager.

For more information, visit Swampmosterbbq.com or the Swamp Monster BBQ Facebook page.