As you have probably heard, Mike Wilson, the legendary Alabama pit-master and founder of the Saw’s BBQ empire, passed away over Labor Day Weekend from a heart attack. This Charlotte, NC native was only 46 but through his passion for food, music and people he will leave behind a legacy that will be known for years to come. He is survived by his loving family and his brainchild: Saw's BBQ. All are welcome to celebrate Mike and his life on September 27 at 5PM at Avondale Brewing.
Taylor Hicks, the Birmingham native who was a close friend and business associate of Wilson’s, provided a statement on his passing from “the Saws BBQ and Post Office Pies family” on Monday, September 7, 2020.
“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 statement said.
“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.”
Mike Wilson was born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., where he formed a love of back-yard barbecuing with friends and family. In High School he earned the nickname "Sorry Ass Wilson". Despite this, he went on to earn a degree in Restaurant and Hospitality management from the University of Alabama in 1996. Pursuing his passion he went on to culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in Vail, Colorado...long way from home.
After graduating, he found his way back home where he worked as a sous chef at Dean & Deluca. Here he was able to perfect his passion and he did! For the next ten years, Mike was working as a test-kitchen chef at Cooking Light in Birmingham where word got around of his BBQ earning him a reputation as one of Alabama's most celebrated hog-smokers.
SAW's is Born
In 2009, Mike got word that Broadway BBQ in Homewood was closing and by a happy little accident the owner was ready to sell! The newfound master barbecue chef took two weeks off his job to get SAW's goin! With the help of his employees and a focus on the food's reputation rather than the decor, Mike was able to get SAW's up and running in under a month!
The restaurant was an instant hit! Everyday, the line snaked out into the street through word-of-mouth that a new hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint had taken over Broadway BBQ. Soon enough SAW's became one of those places you take people for any occasion, especially if you had visitors from out of town. Everyone loves the food and the family-like hospitality.
Now there are four brick-and-mortar Saw’s locations in the Birmingham area, a food truck, and SAW's signature barbecue sauce is a popular offering at grocery stores. Not only did Mike Wilson start a BBQ empire, he also had a hand in the creation of Post Office Pies and Local 39 Homewood!
Name of the Game
SAW’s is an acronym for Wilson’s nickname in high school, “Sorry Ass Wilson.” He said in a June 2009 interview that he first began making barbecue with friends in high school and that he considered the SAW’s name the perfect fit for “a product developed over the course of so many good times with good friends of days gone by.”
Over the 11 years since the first Saw’s location, Mike's beloved barbecue has won numerous awards and has been named the best barbecue in America by publications including Paula Deen Magazine and Men’s Journal.
“I believe in the old, traditional way (of barbecuing),” Wilson said in the 2009 interview. “Since I grew up in North Carolina, it’s usually hickory wood and the vinegar-based sauce. You just kind of let it cook slow and low. It takes a while.”
Mike Wilson will be missed but his legacy will live on forever through SAW's who shared the following post about his tragic death Tuesday:
"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."
SAW's Soul Kitchen in Avondale
When business started boomin Mike brought in Brandon Cain in May 2012. Brandon started his restaurant career in New Orleans working for Emeril Legasse, Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse and Mr. B's Bistro. In Alabama, he worked as a chef at Ocean in Five Points.
What makes the soul kitchen unique is Cain's own taste with a few menu items that aren't at every SAW's!
Location: 215 41st St S Birmingham, AL 35222
SAW's Juke Joint in Crestline
This signature SAW's was created by Mike "Sorry Ass" Wilson, Brandon Cain, and none other than American Idol Winner and local celebrity Taylor Hicks. Since the opening in October 2012, the Juke Joint has (was pre-pandemic) been packed every night...even the middle of the week!
All the Crestline locals love the home tradition of authentic BBQ paired with the bluesy jazz music that gives anyone and everyone a place to hang back and eat good food!
Location: 1115 Dunston Ave Birmingham, AL 35213
SAW's BBQ in Homewood
This SAW's is Mike's SAW's and started the whole experience. Mike and his right-hand woman, Miss A, Anastasia Nealy, provide the true hole-in-the-wall BBQ love that Birmingham residents and visitors can not and will not get enough of!
Location: 1008 Oxmoor Rd Homewood, AL 35209
SAW's BBQ in Southside
The newest edition to SAW's empire is SAW's Southside having only been open since 2014. Taken over Fat Sam's Sub Station, Chef Michael Brandon, became the newest spot for not only Southern BBQ but also some Pensacola Gulf seafood. Don't knock it till you try it!
Location: 1154 11th Ave S Birmingham, AL 35205
SAW's Street Kitchen
Food Truck anyone? Since 2014, Chef Michael Brandon, owner of SAW's Street Kitchen has been traversing Birmingham bringing the love of BBQ to anyone and everyone.
SAW's not only has the most amazing locations scattered around Bham BUT they also take to the streets in their own Street Kitchen! Be sure to check out where they are during the week and the weekends to get yourself some soulful SAW's!
Rest in Peace, Mike Wilson. You will be missed.