North Carolina native Mike Wilson found his calling in barbecue, and his adopted hometown of Birmingham will always be grateful. As you probably heard by now, 46-year old Wilson passed away this past Labor Day weekend. He leaves behind a loving family and an incredible legacy with SAW’s BBQ + more in this foodie town.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece stated that everyone was welcome to a celebration of Wilson’s life. In fact, it is for family and close friends only. We apologize for the error.
From “Sorry Ass Wilson” to SAW’s BBQ
Mike Wilson was born and raised in North Carolina, where he developed a love of backyard barbecuing. From there, he pursued his passion for hospitality at The University of Alabama and his love of food at Johnson & Wales in Vail, Colorado.
After graduating, he worked as the sous-chef at Dean & Deluca in his hometown of Charlotte, NC, before relocating to Birmingham, where he spent a decade as head of the test kitchen at Cooking Light.
The Cooking Light Years
For me, during a brief 2005 stint at Cooking Light, tastings were an event. While the full-time staff would take tiny bites of each creation, evaluating the dish’s worthiness for inclusion in the magazine, I’d load up my plate like it was Thanksgiving.
When I read the news of Wilson’s passing, the exquisiteness of those tastings came flooding back. I also remembered the one and only conversation we had one day when I got to go back into the test kitchen—believe it or not, we talked about his love of barbecue.
The birth of SAW’s
In 2009, opportunity knocked in Homewood’s Edgewood neighborhood, when Wilson got word that Broadway BBQ was going out of business. With a lot of help from hardworking staff, it took less than a month for Wilson to have the first SAW’s up and running.
Most of y’all probably heard about that little hole-in-the-wall serving up the best-tasting barbecue like I did—from a family member or a friend who said “you’ve got to try this place.”
And so, SAW’S quickly became a favorite for any occasion people needed to gather. If you had people visiting from out of town, it was at the top of the list of must-try places. If you had something to celebrate, whether a birthday or a football game, same. Everybody enjoyed the food and the hospitality.
End of an era
“The Saws BBQ and Post Office Pies family celebrates the life of Mike Wilson, whose genuine passion to make everyone feel good was apparent in his love for soul food and BBQ. Mike never met a stranger, and always found common ground with everyone about food, music and fun. Everyone was welcome in his world and in his restaurants. He loved music and food almost as much as he did his two beautiful children. The “Son of Southern BBQ” (better known as Sorry Ass Wilson) and his recipes will live on and be enjoyed for generations to come, and his legacy will live on in his children, restaurants and recipes.
Forever, he will be greatly missed.”The Saws BBQ
SAW’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale
When Wilson and Brandon Cain opened this location in Avondale in May 2012, it quickly became my family’s favorite. Their fried okra is to die for, and my husband always loves seeing what surprises are on the menu.
SAW’s Juke Joint in Crestline Gardens
Doug Smith (former owner of Otey’s in Mountain Brook), Mike Wilson and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks went in together on Saw’s Juke Joint in 2012 and the Crestline Gardens area loved it. In pre-pandemic times, the place was packed every night, with crowds enjoying both the music and the food.
Chef Michael Brandon opened SAW’s Street Kitchen back in 2014, and then the Southside location more recently. This is the place to go if you like your barbecue to include some Gulf Coast seafood options.
- Location: 1154 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205
- Contact: They are temporarily closed due to COVID, but you can call (205) 532-0021 for catering and special orders. | Website
Cindy Martin loves the loaded potato
“I love the giant stuffed potatoes in Homewood’s Saws. I like to get it with chicken and broccoli and pour white sauce ALL over it.”Cindy Martin, President, Bham Now
Pat Byington and his family have their own personal favorites
“My wife Kathy and I eat at SAWS for lunch at the Edgewood location. We love to share the FULLY LOADED baker. They are always great, and we sort of have our weekly romantic “Beauty and the Tramp” moment, with BBQ instead of spaghetti.”Pat Byington, Content Director, Bham Now
“In addition to our favorite, Kathy’s sister from Seattle, Washington always orders the sampler platter, every day for 7 days straight. There are few BBQ places in the Pacific Northwest, so this is her big annual culinary treat when she visits.”Pat Byington, Content Director, Bham Now