Sunday, February 12, 2012
Restaurant Review: Cotten's Bar-B-Que
Fred Cotten's Bar-B-Que has been a Jacksonville fixture for decades (founded in 1944). Growing up, my family ate there all the time. They still do. And I make a point of going there for lunch at least once every time I visit. In it's heyday, you could find city officials, including the mayor, and police eating lunch just about any day of the week. You can't get much better recommendations than having the police as frequent diners.
Cotten's is small and serves up everything on Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils, but that just adds to the experience.
As I understand it, after Fred Cotten passed on the restaurant was run by his long time employee, Ms. Lucille (it was still owned by members of the Cotten family). She always had a smile and good conversation. I remember one time in the 90s I went to the counter to order some sauce to take back with me. "You know, I came all the way from Atlanta for this BBQ sauce," I told her. Ms. Lucille laughed and said, "If you came all that way then I'll give you a bottle free!" She also warned me to keep it refrigerated "because Mr. Cotten, he gave me the recipe before he died but he didn't say how long it'd keep!"
Since then I've always had the image of Fred Cotten on his deathbed, giving out the ingredients between gasps until finally, "...and it will keep for... arrgh!" RIP, Mr. Cotten.
Unfortunately, all has not gone well for Cotten's in this century. A new owner, Billy C (pictured on the left with long time cook Johnny), bought it in 2000. He has renamed it Billy C's Fred Cotten Bar-B-Q and added more items to the menu. Since then business seems to have been on the decline. The politicians and police have moved on to an even smaller BBQ joint opened by Ms. Lucille and her sister Ernestine in 2002 called TC's. I'll review that when I get a chance.
In spite of the recent changes, Cotten's is still the best BBQ place I've ever eaten at. If you get a chance try their rib sandwich plate with sweet tea. You won't regret it.