Ace Barbecue Barn
30 Bell Street N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2642
Ace, a small and venerable downtown rib joint with a few celebrity pictures on the wall, is located just west of the downtown connector between Auburn Avenue and Edgewood Avenue. Lunch time business at review time was brisk. First, the good news: The chopped pork was prepared by special request, as it is only offered "sliced." The larger-than-bite-size chunks of meat and somewhat fruity sauce were good together and the vegetables were every bit as good as they looked. The cornbread was acceptably moist, although mostly tasteless. The generous serving of ribs was also good. The cooks and cashier were accomodating and amusing. Now, the bad news: the stew, although unique and tasty, was quite meaty, greasy and heavy, and not very hot. The rib tips were lukewarm (the chopped pork was reheated and considerably better as a result.) and mushy. The mushiness buried the sauce flavor. No one in the reviewing party was brave enough to sample the chicken necks or pig ears. Verdict - Ace might be worth a visit for the curious, but make sure the food is hot when it is served - it makes a huge difference.
140 East Felton Road
Cartersville, Georgia 30120
Right off of Georgia Highway 41, just north of Cartersville, Adams made two immediate impressions, one good and another bad. First the good: the restaurant, relocated in April, 1997, is impeccably clean and neat, in an unnatural, almost "Stepford Wives" sort of way. The attractive light wood paneling and dark green carpet and accents contrast sharply with the typical barbecue decor. A meticulous tally sheet by the cash register records waitress table assignments and labeled bins hang from the wall for each waitress to deposit her tips. Speaking of tips, the woman that showed the reviewers to their table would not have gotten much of one – "How many?" were the only words out of her mouth when the party was seated and even less was said when the tab was paid. So much for first impressions. The pork is pulled or coarsely chopped and served swimming in a watery, orange vinegar sauce with some pepper and spice. Although similar in presentation to the meat at Old Hickory in Mableton, it is lighter and better-tasting. Hot sauce is available by request. The watery stew has some peppery taste, but little substance. Even bread did little to make it satisfying. Other items include white bread dinner rolls, frozen food service onion rings (with that "perfect" grocery store breading), baked beans with a nice, rich taste, and good iced tea. Plenty of other entrees, sides, desserts and free peppermints are available. Be sure to check out the restaurant's history on the back of the take-out menu.
1437 Virginia Avenue
College Park, Georgia 30337
The College Park Barbecue Kitchen has served up southern cooking since 1968. Serving a variety of meat and two/three choices as well as breakfast anytime (except during the lunch rush), the deceptively large restaurant has expanded its parking and dining space to accomodate the loyal local and airport employee clientele. Though dark and spartan with its odd semi-homemade booths, this vintage roadside diner stays neat as a pin. The barbecue platter features a generous serving of moist meat with lots of real smoke taste. The smoker is in a separate smokehouse out back so you won't taste like smoke when you leave. The sauce is sweet, with some vinegar taste. Hotter sauce sits on the table. The stew is soupy and tastes sweet and peppery. Non-barbecue entree options abound as well. Biscuits are light and delicious, even without butter, while the corn muffins are dry and lacking taste. The corn muffins and stew make a good match, mixing the "too wet" with the "too dry." Barbecue beans are predictably sweet, while the slaw is colorful and almost sugary. Cobbler is great too. Food is served quickly and folks at the register fall all over themselves to be helpful. The two distinguishing features here are the all-you-can-eat vegetable portions (including some awesome pole beans) and non-smoking policy. If you don't mind a lot of smoke (the good kind) in your meat, come soon and come hungry. Open every day - call for new hours.
There was much anticipation when this place went into business - it seemed like months between the first time the word "barbecue" appeared over the storefront and opening day. It was worth the wait. Giving lie to its shopping mall atmosphere, this place is "slap yo' Mamma" good. From the meats (chicken, pork, ribs, . . .) to the sides and desserts, the review team has never had or heard a complaint from anyone about anything served at this place, other than the portions being too big. The help is friendly and the word is spreading - often, this is the only place at Underground during weekday lunch where people wait in line. There's a reason - it's great. Don't forget to try the macaroni and cheese while you're there - it's some of the best we've ever had.
"Hot, mild or mix?" That's the choice of sauces you get when you place your order at the counter of Benny's. The huge portions and low prices make this place one of the best lunch bargains in Atlanta. The brightly lit, but otherwise prison-like interior makes carry-out or dining al fresco appealing alternatives to the dining area. The pork sandwiches overflow with smoky meat - a fork or spoon is recommended. Ribs, chicken, beef and turkey are also offered. The mild sauce is mostly thick ketchup and the hot sauce has a noticeable, but not quite painful after-burn. The stew has heaps of tasty pork, potato bits and corn floating in a thin broth. Pepper and other spices give the stew an unusual, yet appealing flavor. Located near the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Johnson Ferry Road, Benny's is a quick shot from Perimeter Mall, Oglethorpe or Marist.
Bobby and June's Kountry Kitchen
"When are we coming back?" was the first question as the reviewing team headed out the door of what looks like an old, converted house. About a mile west of the downtown connector, Bobby and June's packs in the customers at lunch time. Although waits are common, quick service plus Bobby's energetic and friendly crowd control keep people moving. The cramped interior has an efficient design that somehow holds everyone from the large parking lot, plus a commercial kitchen. Menus and drinks come quickly, with food not far behind. Employees constantly dash about, looking more like nurses than restaurant workers in their white outfits. Quick service means much to employees - the team's waitress apologized twice for delays, yet delivered better-than-average service. Barbecue pork comes sliced and cooked to crock pot tenderness. The thick, rich sauce has an even balance of tomato, sweetness, pepper and other seasonings. The stew, a touch short on meat, tastes surprisingly like the sauce. Grilled and buttered Texas toast comes with the platters. Tempting meat-and-two/three combinations may lure diners away from the barbecue, but it's hard to make a mistake at Bobby and June's, no matter what you get.
689 Peachtree Street, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
2997 Cumberland Boulevard
Smyrna, Georgia 30339
7285 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, Georgia 30328
Town Center Espanade
Kennesaw, Georgia 30144
Not even close to anything like a barbecue joint, Atlanta's favorite Caribbean chain boasts "the best ribs in Atlanta." Are they? Hard to say, but they certainly are good. These baby back ribs are topped with a sweet and predictably fruity, but subtle guava sauce that lets the meat taste shine through. Lacking the usual excess fat, grease and heavy sauce of barbecued ribs, these baby backs are light and enjoyable. If you don't cringe at the thought of black beans and rice or plantains with your ribs, try this place. For quirky Little Five Points atmosphere, check out the original location on Euclid Avenue.
Nouvelle cuisine comes to Gainesville. The Brunswick stew, a delicious combination of meat, vegetables and zesty spices, comes in portions well-suited to anorexic dwarves. Tangy vinegar-based sauce adorns a worthwhile pork sandwich. Alternative foods include homemade onion rings, chili, jalapeno poppers, grilled chicken breast (mesquite marinated), banana pudding, and four varieties of pie. Top that off with very good service and you have a restaurant that deserves a visit on your next trip to Gainesville.
Bullock's Best BBQ and Catering
4594 Highway 42
Ellenwood, Georgia 30294
Bullock's, located just outside of Fort Gillem, serves food cafeteria-style from 11:00 to 3:00 Monday through Friday. Breakfast will be served starting in May, 2000. Bullock's distinguishes itself by serving Eastern North Carolina style barbecue. Meats include chopped and sliced pork, ribs and chicken (pulled and on the bone). The sauce is vinegar based. The house sauce is fairly mild, while the "Big M's" barbecue sauce (apparently available in at your grocer) on the table packs a bunch of vinegar and red pepper - use with caution. The baked beans have a predominant molasses flavor, with some onions and green bell peppers added in. Other vegetables, which were not sampled, looked dried out in the steam table. The finely-ground stew has a reddish brown color, with meat ground to the consistency of sand and no noticeable chunks of anything except a stray bone here and there. Although a bud vase full of artificial flowers was accidentally spilled into the reviewer's stew, it did not affect the taste. The taste of the stew, which was hard to notice after a mouth full of Big M's sauce, has some tomato and some vinegar whang to it. Interesting beverages include frozen fruit drinks. Overall, Bulluck's holds its own with the other barbecue establishments located outside of Fort Gillem, but with at least three other decent-to-good restaurants just a bit farther away (Flava's in Ellenwood, Piggyback's in Rex, and R.W.'s in Stockbridge), consider driving a little more if time permits.
Three words: Beer, barbecue, women. Located on the north side of Georgia Highway 57 just west of Toomsboro, this place attracts a rough crowd of locals. Being the least compelling of the three attractions, the barbecue may not even be necessary, let alone edible. A fair review of the food would exclude the beer and women, so take-out or catering would be the most fair test. If you have had the discipline to try the food sober and free from visual distractions, please let us know how it is. The latest word (as of fall, 1999) is that Camp House will have to select between the beer and women by early 2001 due to a new county ordinance. In the mean time, "We'll be operating status quo as usual, having naked women and cold beer," per manager John Chambers. Funny how he didn't even mention barbecue.
Chili's Grill & Bar
Chili's spends a lot of money to advertise its baby back ribs, so expectations were high on review day. The experience did not rise to the anticipation this time. The meat came out quite charred and dry. It had no smoke flavor. However, it came off the bone without undue effort, and tasted acceptable. The sauce was thick and brown, with a tangy vinegar taste that has a bit of sweetness and some good seasoning. This stuff could make some money if it sold by the bottle. Overall, the ribs receive a passing mark, but the lack of smoke keeps it from posing a threat to the real barbecue joints in town.
Community Q BBQ
1361 Clairmont Road
Can sides really be this good? On our first trip to Community Q, we knew to try the already famous mac and cheese. Meat plates come with two sides, so there was room to squeeze in baked beans, collard greens, and potato salad. Everyone LOVED their sides. The mac and cheese lived up the hype, the collards were the server's favorite, and the beans had a dark rich sauce and almost as much meat as beans. Yum! Then there was the meat: pork and chicken were moist and tasty. Pork was obviously smoked, but an order of "inside meat" and pulled chicken failed to give off the hickory perfume that we've come to love and expect. Smoked sausage, on the other hand, was dense, flavorful, and filled with smoke flavor. The adventurous can combine meats, so it was easy to cover a lot of ground in one visit. Finally, there was the sauces: a Carolina vinegar in a yellow bottle, and a brown Kansas City sauce in a clear bottle. The Carolina sauce was nicely sour, yet gentle, and the Kansas City sauce was sweet and satisfying. Overall, the meat fell a little short of the sides, but Community Q has instantly won a place among the big boys. We enjoyed it a lot and will definitely be back for more.
Corky's Ribs & BBQ
1605 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, Georgia 30096
Fern barbecue, Memphis style. The local version of this Memphis franchise resembles a Bennigan's or a Friday's franchise with its slick neon sign, brick exterior, green window awnings and plastic-covered professionally type-set menus (with items like chicken tenders, tamales, burgers and spaghetti!). However, the smell inside the front door suggests that there's a whole lotta smokin' goin' on. The pulled pork is moist and smokey, with slightly more fat on it than expected. The sauce is a thick, spicey (but not hot), complex mixture, with a hint of vinegar and sweetness - the prototypical rib sauce. Combining the meat and sauce yields a comination so good that it's hard to imagine paying more for ribs. The beans have just enough sweet molasses and spice, while the stew leans heavily toward tomatoes. The dinner rolls are fresh, airy and quite good without added butter, though not barbecue tradition. The service is worthy of the Ritz-Carlton hotel - exquisitely polite, most attentive, but never intrusive. Unlike inside dining, drive-thru specials are surprisingly cheap. Glowing reviews of the catering business cover the wall near the bathrooms. Speaking of bathrooms, the "Men" and "Women" signs are on the wall next to the doors, not on the doors, for those in a hurry to find them. The only downside to this place is heavy traffic. For a multi-generation, family-owned business in a rustic setting, go elsewhere; for really good food and superior service, try Corky's.
Creekstone Bar-B-Q and Steakhouse
1490 Hiram-Acworth Highway
Dallas, Georgia 30157
Opened in October 1999, Creekstone makes an impressive appearance, with a new building, large drive-under carport in front, a large waiting area filled with benches, and booths large enough for six large adults. An unmistakably "family" tone is set by the toys in the waiting area, large supply of high chairs and booster seats, and kid-friendly items on the menu. The full menu looks very professional, with the Creekstone emblem on the front and the watermarks on the front and inside. The only things wrong with the menu are the three different spellings of "barbecue" and the heaping helping of baloney that pervades the excessive copy. The chopped meat is moist, with a choice of three sauces: Creekstone original, low country mustard, and spicy mountain red. Served in cream pitchers, the sauces are all good, especially the spicey (which, true to its name, is flavorful, but not hot), but are all pretty similar, even the mustard sauce. The Brunswick stew looks more like vegetable beef stew without much seasoning, not like what one would expect in a barbecue restaurant. The quality was a bit disappointing, no better than a typical "soup of the day" offering. Cornbread is unexciting - not greasy, not sweet, not dry, not much of anything. Other sides are good, such as the molasses beans (lots of pork in them), fries (crispy and hot), and tequila wings. Although none was tried, the applewood smoked pork chop looked tempting. Service was difficult to measure, as the review took place during a slow time when the restaurant was clearly over-staffed. Prices were a bit higher than expected for the area. Creekstone looks like it may be an "up and comer," but they still have to work some of the bugs out of some of the food offerings (figuratively speaking).
Congratulations to Daddy Dz' for winning Creative Loafing's 1999 Critic's Choice Award for best barbecue in Atlanta. Daddy D'z, a deliberately dingy dump in the inner city, serves up barbecue, veggies and "Que Wraps" to urban pioneers within a stone's throw of Capitol Homes and Turner Field. The menu boasts about the ribs, and rightfully so. The thick sauce (available in mild and hot) combines tomato, pepper and vinegar with just the right sweetness and zing - simply outstanding. The sauce goes great with everything - ribs, pork, beef, smoked sausage, turkey and "Daddy D'z Famous Que Wraps" (bite-sized eggrolls stuffed with pork). The potato wedges and sweet corn bread deserve a try; the black beans & rice do not. The stew is better than average, but remember that it is a la carte and does not count as a platter "side dish." Blues bands liven up the porch on Friday and Saturday nights (but think twice before getting out of the car after dark in this neighborhood). Check out the web site for lunch specials, discounts, and information on rib samples. Have lunch with Daddy (but he ain't paying).
Located on Main Street about a mile south of "downtown" Jonesboro, Dean's has been in business since 1947. The echoing air-conditioned dining space (an enclosed porch) feels more like a garage than a restaurant. Professional pencil sketches of the restaurant and other "historic" Jonesboro landmarks decorate the walls. The menu sticks to chopped pork; no ribs, beef or chicken. Ask for outside meat if you want it - it does not come by default. The sauce is an appealing variation on North Carolina style - very watery, but sweetness and pepper replace vinegar bitterness. Ground meat "hogs" the spotlight (Sorry - I'm running low on metaphors) in the unusually dry and awful-looking stew, and any tomatoes are undetectable. However, the stew's taste brings back pleasant memories of roast beef hash, but with less grease, salt and MSG. Beverages served "by the can" include Coca-Cola products, Dr. Pepper and Yoo-Hoo. Only minor complaints: no public rest room, Golden Flake potato chips, and sandwiches that are a bit small for the money. Dean's provides a tasty and authentic alternative to Sonny's or the new Harold's when in Jonesboro.
Originally the dream of a retired Alabama brick mason, the Dreamland chain has instantly become a 500-pound gorilla in the Atlanta barbecue restaurant market and appears destined to become a local dining landmark. Tucked away on Alpharetta Highway between Holcomb Bridge and Mansell Road, the Roswell location resembles a converted steakhouse (with a brick pit added on), with a hostess in front taking names and handing out beepers. The feel is much like Longhorn Steakhouse, only more rustic - chairs are creaky and mismatched and the pit sits in plain view of diners. Each reviewer took one look at the cook mopping sauce on the smoking ribs and ordered some - a real rarity. Food is served fast and hot. Sweet, flavorful smoke fills the excellent rib meat. The runny sauce contains a strong mix of vinegar, lemon juice and heat. Although the reviewers do not favor this style of sauce, the balance of flavors makes for good eating nonetheless. The stew virtually bulges with chunks of meat and potato, as well as lots of corn. The taste is remarkably similar to the barbecue sauce. Pork is good, but pales in comparison to ribs. Both the BBQ plate and sandwich portions cost plenty, but mammoth servings more than satisfy the most ambitious appetite. Potato salad is quite good, and baked beans are mostly sweet with molasses. Beer and wine are served. Oh, and don't forget the House Rules, prominently posted on the wall.
12 Executive Park Drive, N.E.
Winning Readers' Choice awards from Creative Loafing and Atlanta Magazine, Dusty's is a favorite in the Emory University area. The moist, tasty chopped pork is served without sauce. The chicken practically falls off the bone. Diners can choose between a caramel-tasting sweet sauce, or Carolina-style sauce, which comes in mild, hot and extra-hot varieties. Extra-hot is best limited to fools, masochists, and terrorists. Try the mild sauce first, then get progressively hotter, or else the mild sauce will have no taste at all. The stew resembles a thick vegetable beef soup (substituting pork for beef, of course) and is some of the best in town. Plenty of plain vegetables are available as well. Hushpuppies, served with combo meals, go well in the stew. Alternative beverages include beer, wine and Cheerwine. Desserts include cobblers, pies, cakes, ice cream and brownies. Lunch and dinner are served at the Briarcliff location seven days a week. Seating is limited, so go early or get take-out. Don't miss Dusty's!
Fat Matt's Rib Shack
1811 Piedmont Ave N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30324
Congratulations to Fat Matt's for winning Creative Loafing's and Atlanta Magazine's 1999 Reader's Choice Awards for best barbecue in Atlanta. Eat on the porch or enjoy live blues music indoors. This place has the gritty look and feel of an authentic blues venue. Its central location makes it easily accessible from downtown and Buckhead. Poor parking and ingress/egress offset that convenience somewhat. The ribs are an Atlanta favorite. The thick, tasty and moderately hot sauce saturates the pork sandwich - if it had any more sauce, it would be stew. The stew has a subtle, sweet tomato taste and a slightly chunky texture. The bourbon baked beans also deserve some space on the plate. Unusual details include Snyder's potato chips, egg bread sandwich buns, and real plates. Seating is limited and you get your own food when your number is called. Slightly stingy portions are the only distraction from an otherwise good experience. Open seven days a week.
Fincher's Open Pit Barbecue
Run down American Graffiti-style drive-in with diner-style interior. In business since 1935, the original Houston Avenue location has probably not been renovated since it opened. Burglar bars cover the windows and autographed NASA photos dress up the walls. The "Pig" (a small chopped pork sandwich) comes saturated with the house sauce, which is mostly pepper and tomato, but is not dominated by either. The usual sweetness in this style of sandwich was missing. The dark brown stew was soupy, similar in texture to Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati delicacy. The taste was mostly meat (unusual and surprising, since there wasn't much meat in the stew) and pepper. Overall, the food was good and very reasonably priced. Ribs are not offered, but many alternative foods are available. Bud, Coors and Miller beers are offered. During the lunch rush, limited indoor seating was full and the fast-moving waitresses needed help. Bad points include the nasty area around the bathrooms (outside access only) and cigarette smoke in the small dining area. Eat in your car or on the porch if that's a problem. Fincher's is a safe bet for lunch when travelling to or through Macon.
Flava Real Pit BBQ
495 Santa Fe Trail
First, please pardon the spelling - "Flava" has an apostrophe centered over the "v". Please e-mail us if you know how to do that in HTML. The pork sandwiches are big, moist, smokey and delicious. The rich meat tastes good enough to eat plain, but then you'd miss the yummy sauce - a ketchup/vinegar blend with a touch of sweetness (Sauce ingredients include "everything", per the proprietor). The extra-thick, hearty stew has a tangy, slightly sweet taste that can be enhanced with the many available hot sauces. Side dishes to offset the richness and "heaviness" of these items include cracklin' corn bread (good in the stew), FRESH vegetables, and homemade desserts. Friendly service, huge portions, and fair prices complete the package.
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
1238 Dekalb Ave.
Smoking section. Fox Bros., a former sideline of Smith's Olde Bar on Piedmont, is now it's own going concern. Two giant smokers greet you in the parking lot. The restaurant itself features a fun interior and a funky staff covered in tattoos and other artistic embellishments. Although they claim a western pedigree, Fox Bros.' pork surpasses their beef. For those who love lots of smoke, it would be hard to find better pork anywhere. The brisket, on the other hand, is nearly overwhelmed with smoke. If you do try it, go for SLICED, not chopped. Otherwise, the fat is difficult to remove. All the sides are great, but the sticky mac & cheese and banana pudding are among the best kept secrets (Update: recipes have changed, but are still pretty good). This place is absolutely first rate and highly recommended if you love plenty of real hickory smoke taste.
Fresh Air Bar-B-Que 1110 Hull Road 1164 Highway 42 3076 Riverside Drive
1110 Hull Road
1164 Highway 42
3076 Riverside Drive
Just outside of downtown Jackson, Georgia in Butts County, the original location is the real deal - established in 1929, in the woods, out in the country, and near a prison, just like the original Harold's. Go figure. Many put this place at the top of their list because of the meat and the authentic location. Fresh Air only serves pork, which is rich, smokey and delicious. The other offerings unfortunately do not always measure up to the first-rate meat, exceptional setting and enviable reputation- the stew is sometimes watery and the barbecue sauce is a sour mix of vinegar and pepper. Get the meat "to go" and enjoy it with your own sauce.
Glenn's Open-Pit Bar-B-Que
1745 Highway 138 N.E.
2671 Highway 124 S
Glenn's has fallen into the franchise trap. The failed Stockbridge location was considered second-rate by many. Hopefully, Glenn's can maintain quality by focusing their efforts on fewer locations.
Hae Woon Dae BBQ
5805 Buford Highway
No rednecks in sight here. Winning Atlanta Magazine's 1999 award for Best Korean Barbecue, Hae Woon Dae offers up something different for the adventurous barbecue afficionado. Watch out, though. What passes for "mild" in Korea might burn a hole in your carpet.
Hamilton Square Barbecue
118 S College Street
Hamilton, Georgia 31811
To find Hamilton Square, go 5 miles south of Calloway Gardens on Hwy. 27. Barbecue and what could easily pass for Poss' brunswick stew are served, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers. Sauce is a mild yellow mustard sauce with minced onions (or are they dehydrated?) If canned or simulated canned stew does not bother you, this place deserves a stop when you happen to be around at mealtime.
171 McDonough Boulevard, S.E.
265 Highway 54 N
An Atlanta barbecue shrine, the original Atlanta location sits in a bad neighborhood near the federal prison, but is safe during daylight hours. Moist but tasteless meat (sliced or chopped coarse), slightly sweet but otherwise tasteless stew (that looks pre-digested, to put it delicately), very sweet slaw, and cracklin' corn bread for those that don't mind fried meat by-products hiding in their bread basket. Sandwiches come on trademark grill-toasted white bread. The sauce, a very sweet, runny, tomato-like concoction, comes in mild and hot. Seating in the McDonough Boulevard location is tight during lunch hour and chairs are uncomfortable. Check out the celebrity pictures on the wall while you're there. Overall, the food is acceptable (sort of a benchmark for this site, since folks are familiar with it), especially with careful seasoning, and remarkably consistent, but falls short of the Harold's heavyweight reputation.
Heavy D's Barbecue
Georgia Highway 22
Half way between Atlanta and Augusta, take the Highway 22 exit off of I-20 and go north about 5 miles. Distinctive décor sets this place apart. Odd items are strewn about all over the place. Feast your eyes, then feast on some good food.
The Hickory Stick
Jonesboro Road (in front of Fort Gillem)
Forest Park, Georgia
Stepford barbecue. Outside the Jonesboro Road entrance to Fort Gillem where the Great American Hot Dog House used to be sits the Hickory Stick. A "Hickory Stick" food stand trailer with a "For Sale" sign on it (apparently the restaurant's former location on Southway Drive in Jonesboro) sits outside, looking very unloved. The interior is clean and neat, with an electric circus train skillfully suspended overhead. Somewhat ironically, a large photo of the food stand in its original shiny splendor hangs proudly on the wall. At review time (Saturday lunch), one person was taking orders and money, while another was preparing food to order. The menu above the counter had chopped pork sandwiches and stew buried among a multitude of non-barbecue items. The only other references to barbecue were sheets of paper taped to the counter that advertised the barbecue plate and Friday/Saturday rib specials. The pork came out finely chopped, moist and flavorful, but lacking in smoke. Although the reviewer suspects that the restaurant bought the meat pre-cooked, there was a portable smoker (for catered events) sitting in the back at review time. The mild sauce was Kraft or a good imitation. The barely hot hot sauce was similar, but runnier, with a much more original and enjoyable flavor. The stew was canned. The slaw was finely chopped, pale green, a little runny, and slightly sweet. Other than the hot sauce, everything apparently came straight out of a can or bottle. However, everything was good quality and certainly better and cheaper than a lot of bad homemade barbecue. If you don't mind store-bought barbecue, Hickory Stick will do in a pinch.
Hiram Hickory House Highway 278/Hiram Shell Location:
Highway 92 Location:
1856 Hiram Douglasville Highway
Hiram, Georgia 30141
5329 Wendy Bagwell Parkway
Hiram, Georgia 30141
Highway 278/Hiram Shell Location:
The Hiram Hickory House takes traditional barbecue one step beyond. If you need gasoline, try the Highway 278 location; if you want beer and live music on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, try the Highway 92 location. The menu features unusual items like the Fried/Baked Hickory Tater, the Yeller Jacket Hot Dog, the Rib Samich [sic], and homemade salad dressings. Both locations have drive-through windows. Meat, although a bit dry, is all inside cut, with a good smokey flavor and consistent quality. The sauce is a thick, ketchup-based blend with smoke. It is thick, but not from a food service. The stew contains a few chunks and hunks, but is mostly ground fine. It has a lot of liquid content, and not a lot of taste. Portions are big, value is good, and the owner is friendly.
Hudson Hickory House
6874 Bankhead Highway
Douglasville, Georgia 30134-1311
Hudson Hickory House has received more positive pre-review buzz than any restaurant reviewed on this site. Although the parking lot is jammed at lunch time and the building looks small on the outside, there is plenty of seating room and a large staff of waitresses to keep the food coming. Noise bouncing off of the brick tile floors fills up the austere dining. Unlike the reviewers, regulars apparently know where to sit to avoid wobbly tables and chairs. Drinks come in styrofoam cups the size and shape of small buckets. Food offerings include mostly barbecue and steak. The pork and stew combination includes stew pureed to a liquid state, glistening home-style fries and meat floating in a thin, brown vinegar sauce. The stew has a decent, mostly salty taste that, in combination with the texture, suggests a canned recipe. The fries are limp, soggy and tasteless. The meat sauces (hot and regular) have a sour vinegar whang common to Atlanta's west side in places like Old Hickory (Mableton), Wallace (Lithia Springs) and Donnie's (Powder Springs). If you don't like any of those places, you probably won't like Hudson's either. On the positive side, Hudson's meat is not as greasy as some others on the west side.
1816 Peachtree Road, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
Yes, Huey's is a New Orleans restaurant, but they claim that their Louisiana-style barbecued ribs are good, so the gauntlet has been thrown. The slow-roasted pork ribs have a good, honest meat taste. The sauce is fairly thick, with sweetness and vinegar. The sweet taste resembles sugar more than most sweet sauces. The vinegar in the sauce triggers a Pavlovian response surprisingly similar to that triggered by smoked meat - it nearly fooled the reviewer. Red beans and rice can be substituted as a side. Overall, the experience is good, but the portions are a bit meager.
J & E Country Barbecue & Snack Bar
4090 Georgia Highway 85
Ellerslie, Georgia 31807-5634
Located 5 miles south of Waverly Hall, Ga. on Alternate Highway 27, J & E features barbecue and stew, plus a "No Q" daily special. This place is operated by a couple of old ladies (J & E, perhaps?) who are not afraid to experiment with side dishes. The food is good for a quick stop if you are in the neighborhood.
JL's Open Pit Bar-B-Q Macon Mall
Eisenhower Parkway at I-475
This former Sonny's location has everything that Fincher's (also in Macon) lacks: comfortable family atmosphere, plentiful seating, "no smoking" section, meat served without sauce, plenty of outside meat, large jumbo sandwiches, appropriate number of waitresses, choice of three sauces (mild, hot and honey), and a reasonably clean indoor bathroom area. The food violates two big "editorial biases" of the reviewer: the meat is dry and the stew has a heavy tomato taste (Canned tomato soup, perhaps?). Even so, the food rates well: the meat has a good, smokey flavor and the stew has a nice, chunky texture like homemade chili. Ostrich filets and burgers provide meat alternatives. The runny sauces all offer original flavor: the mild sauce is a variation on a tomato/vinegar sauce, the hot sauce has a spicey after-burn, and the honey works better on its own than combined with other sauces. The honey sauce works particularly well with the dry meat. Good side orders include crinkle-cut fries and onion rings. All-you-can-eat salad bar is available with meals or separately. Prices were on the high side. Slickly varnished seats bring back childhood memories of the backyard Slip 'n Slide. The menu features a cute, but slightly morbid picture of a pig on a cloud with a halo and angel wings. The food may be better at Fincher's, but it's easier to enjoy your meal in the comfort of JL's.
J. R.'s Log House
10270 Medlock Bridge Road
Duluth, Georgia 30097
About one half mile south of Jimmy Carter Boulevard on the southbound access road, the Peachtree Industrial location has a full parking lot at lunch time. The dark interior accomodates a lot of hungry customers. In the business over 30 years, J. R.'s proudly proclaims that all meats, stews, beans, vegetables, slaw and salads are prepared fresh daily on the premises. The proprietor waxes especially lyrical over the stew, a recipe handed down from his grandfather. A wonderful-looking breakfast menu deserves some attention as well. "All-you-can-eat" specials are offered frequently. An unconditional money-back guarantee backs up the food. So how is it? The sandwich comes to the table wrapped in foil. A fairly thick tomato/vinegar sauce with a noticeable amount of pepper saturates the meat. The sauce tastes like it has a secret ingredient in it, perhaps rye seed. The stew is meaty and barely sweet with a bit of pepper. Onions and finely chopped meat dominate the texture, with some stray chunks of meat here and there. The barbecue beans are just sweet enough and the banana pudding is wonderful. Service is attentive. Only two very minor complaints - the food could have been served up just a little hotter and the hard, straight backs in the booths were not comfortable. All in all, everything was good to excellent - J. R. did not have to honor his guarantee with this reviewer.
8351 Eisenhower Parkway (U.S. Highway 80)
Now that Walker's in Roberta has apparently vanished, Johnny's is the only place we can find on U. S. 80 between Macon and Roberta to get real smoked barbecue. Having added barbecue to its sandwich line in the spring of 2000, Johnny's is starting small, with a portable pit running outside in the parking lot. With the lack of competition nearby and the fair amount of traffic between Macon and Roberta, this experiment could easily evolve into Johnny's main attraction if he plays his cards right.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
"New" as of January 2000, KFC's Honey BBQ chicken sandwich is a real deal at $1.99. Whether the sandwich and price are temporary remains to be seen, but for the time being, those in search of Sunday barbecue in the city have a new choice. The sauce has a sweet honey flavor (Duh!) with a touch of vinegar, similar to Lloyd's in the grocery store, but not quite so sweet. The meat, saturated with sauce, comes on a (hopefully) fresh Pepperidge Farm split-top sandwich bun. Although smoke is sometimes undiscernable and some hot sauce would be a nice addition, KFC's Honey BBQ chicken sandwich is surprisingly good. Top it off with some pretty good side dishes, and KFC is suddenly a contender in the barbecue business. Lets just see how long the sandwich and price stay put. . .
Key's Barbeque and Seafood Georgia Highway 85
5608 Riverdale Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30349-6444
Georgia Highway 85
Take I-285 to Riverdale Road, go south, and look on the left just past West Clayton Elementary School to find this converted gas station. There, you will find picnic tables sitting between the pump bays under a large metal awning. Barbecue selections include pork ribs, beef tips and wings (barbecue or hot). Various seafood is also available, as well as plenty of vegetables and other side dishes, but no stew. The smokey ribs are served with a syrupy sauce that is mostly sweet, but not cloying like a lot of Chinese sweet and sour sauce. The resulting flavor is quite nice. The baked beans have a little more sweetness and a little less tomato than Kentucky Fried Chicken's beans - familiar tasting, but definitely better. The macaroni is smooth and creamy. If you like your ribs sweet, Key's fits the bill nicely.
Low Country Barbecue
2000 S. Pioneer Drive S.E.
1281 Collier Road, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30318
Endorsed by local personality Neal Boortz. Sauce is South-Carolina style, with a mustard base, although other sauces are available. Low Country has an extensive catering line that includes a vegetarian menu and Low Country shrimp boil for 20 or more, as well as the usual barbecue suspects. They have become a favorite with my own family for holiday gatherings, where leftovers are tough to come by. A delivery/takeout location has opened up on Collier Road in Atlanta (in the Chatahoochee Industrial area). They require 1 day notice on all orders, but you can sample their barbecue sandwiches at Patrick's Sub Shop, right on the corner of Collier and Defoors Ferry.
Maddy's - A Blues and Barbecue Experience
1479 Scott Boulevard
Decatur, Georgia 30030
Something new is going on at the old Rockin' Rob's location and here's one hint - they're still using the barbecue pit. Is Maddy's a blues destination? Don't know (although signs posted around say B. B. King will not be playing there). Is it a barbecue destination? No, but the food's pretty good. Chicken and pork sandwiches come dripping with a mildly sweet and tangy sauce. Thank goodness they thought to provide moist towlettes - they are absolutely necessary. The stew is canned, but very good quality. The potato chips are Block & Barrel, the house brand of Sysco food service - light and not too greasy. "Serve yourself" soft drinks come with free refills, so no moral dilemmas about whether to give yourself one anyway. When you take a number to your table, it's on a little tamborine or dobro, in keeping with the blues theme. There are plenty of beers and some wine for those so inclined. Homemade pies are by Miss Mary Bell. The very sweet waitress told us at lunch that the restaurant is more of a night spot because of the live music. Overall, the food is good, but ordinary; maybe the music brings in the evening crowd. Open every day and catering available.
Manny's Hickory Smoked Bar-be-que
Union City, Georgia
The old Melear's location, in Union City, closed in February 1998, has a new lease on life as of September, 1999. Entrepreneurs Manny Courett and Ilse Roberts are re-opening the restaurant as "Manny's Hickory Smoked Bar-be-que." The new business will feature texas-style barbecue, marinated and smoked over hickory and oak - mesquite is scarce in these here parts. Manny will feature the usual dishes (including ribs), plus some special Louisiana dishes for Cajun nights. Occasional live music will include blues, jazz and zydeco. Special thanks to the Atlanta Business Chronicle for the background information used in this preview.
Fayetteville, Georgia 30215
9 Ellis St,
Newnan, Georgia 30263
Comfort barbecue. Melear's is a respected name in South Metro barbecue. Located about a half mile south of the courthouse, the Fayetteville location makes the cut on some "Top Ten" lists, but the original location in Fairburn (now "Manny's, above) is rumored to have been better than the current locations. The pork sandwiches come on grill-toasted whitebread. A mild vinegar sauce with just a hint of pepper saturates the meat. The stew is ground up extra-smooth and has some extra-smooth seasoning with a special taste that complements the texture very well. Some potato may be mixed into the stew to give it its creamy consistency. Potato chips come from Wise, a regional brand not favored by this reviewer. Food is served piping hot and portions are fairly generous. Melear's, one of the best places in the South Metro area, is for those that prefer their meat smothered and their seasoning skillfully understated. To get there, go south on Georgia 85 and it will be on the left about one half mile past the old Fayette County courthouse.
Mickey Pigg's Bar-B-Que
M-I-C! K-E-Y! P-I-G-G-S! Mickey Pigg's is a regular stop for barbecue fans driving through Alto. Sandwiches are served on sub rolls. The most interesting sandwich comes with Mickey's Specialty BBQ Sandwich Plate - barbecue pork grilled with onions, topped with provolone cheese and barbecue sauce, served on a sub roll. Appetizers include Vidalia onion rings, mozzarella sticks and fried mushrooms. Other entrees include hamburgers, Philly cheesesteaks, and hot dogs. Stew, salads and sides are also offered. Stop by for a sub-becue.
Tanger Outlet Mall
Locust Grove, Georgia
A soft, sweet hickory smell greets arriving diners (except when drowned out by car fumes from nearby I-75). The dining area is clean, dimly lit and comfortably cool, with smokers seated a comfortable distance from everyone else. A large fireplace sets the home-like tone. The waitresses are friendly and attentive. The pulled pork is moist and delicious, not lost in smoke. The ketchup-based sauces (mild and hot) are tolerable, but fall short of the mark - the pork is good enough without them. The Brunswick stew rates very high on the sweet scale and has an unusual, coarse texture, reminiscent of oatmeal. The combination of meat, vegetables and other stew ingredients works well, with no ingredient dominating the others. Fries and barbecue beans are about average. Distinctive menu items include the Awesome Potato (stuffed with pork and cheese), catfish, shrimp, steak, salad bar, children's items, chocolate peanut butter pie, and fresh baked cobbler of the day. O.B.'s has set the standard for family-style barbecue dining in the South Metro area.
Georgia Highway 441 South
Clayton, Georgia 30525
Open Thursday through Saturday, Oinkers often runs out of food and closes when the food is gone. Food is cooked fresh daily and packs the customers in while it lasts. The food is good, cheap and served in generous portions, but get there early if you want some.
Old Brick Pit Barbeque
4805 Peachtree Road
Chamblee, Georgia 30341-3113
Old Brick Pit,just north of Olglethorpe University on Peachtree, has a smell that grabs diners by the nostrils and yanks them in the door. The rough interior looks like it pre-dates the restaurant's 1976 opening. Offerings stick to basics: pretty much just pork, ribs, chicken and stew. Food is served at the counter and can be taken to nearby tables. The mostly exotic staff serves food quickly, even at lunch time. Drinks are picked up in the nearby ice barrels. The food has good points and bad. Sandwiches are reasonably priced ($2.00) and the meat has an excellent aroma and taste (especially near the pit - take-out mileage may vary). However, the sandwiches are a bit small and the sauce has a forgetable, mostly vinegar taste, with a touch of heat and seasoning. The stew has little substance to it and meat is nearly absent. The taste, what little there is, is not particularly good. Overall, Old Brick Pit exceeds minimum requirements, but there are better alternatives not too terribly far off in several directions.
Old Hickory Bar-B-Q
499 Bankhead Highway
Mableton, Georgia 30126-3339
Arriving at Old Hickory, you know that either you found what you came looking for or you are really lost. Country accents, bad paintings and vintage booths (complete with original cushions, unfortunately) line the walls in this old, run-down, out-of-the-way diner. The pork plate features a generous serving of moist meat floating in a distinctive-tasting vinegar sauce. The meat and sauce are above average, although a bit greasy. Hot sauce fills a shampoo bottle on the table - handle with care. The stew tastes like cafeteria beef stew, only better. Highlights include french fries (served with Hunt's ketchup) and huge, crisp dill pickles. A pitcher of extra iced tea stays on the table. Homemade fried apple and peach pies, added to the menu after its last printing, look tempting. Although not the best barbecue money can buy, Old Hickory should appeal to those preferring their meat heavy and saturated with North Carolina-style sauce.
Old Hickory House 2655 Cobb Parkway 2202 Northlake Parkway 5750 Roswell Road N.E.
5490 Chamblee Dunwoody Road
Smyrna, Georgia 30080-3014
2655 Cobb Parkway
2202 Northlake Parkway
5750 Roswell Road N.E.
Old Hickory House has broken the franchise curse. The few remaining Old Hickory House locations are remnants of an Atlanta barbecue dynasty. The finely chopped pork sandwiches have just enough hint of smoke and color. The Hickory Chick, a pulled, boneless chicken, provides one of several meat alternatives. The sauce, a subtly spicy ketchup blend, gives them the perfect boost. The Brunswick stew, an unusually dark concoction with a slight tomato tang, actually looks like stew, with an ideal consistency, somewhere between soup and canned dog food. Added meat gives the baked beans a robust consistency. Many other southern lunch and dinner favorites are also available. The "old fashioned country boy breakfast," served Saturday and Sunday until 2:00, is truly first-class. You won't be disappointed with Old Hickory House.
Old McDonald's Real Pit BBQ
5774 Holiday Road
Buford, Georgia 30518
Located just south of Lake Lanier, Old McDonald's had impressive effects on the review team: the palaverous became silent, the abstemious cleaned their plate, and the stew-hater wiped the bowl clean with a biscuit. Slightly dry pork, ribs, beef, chicken and turkey have a wonderful, smoky aroma. Regular or hot sauce, both with a thick vinegar base, satisfactorily remedy the dryness. The stew has a great taste, with a vinegar tang, but no grease. The slaw and potato salad swim in mayonnaise, but mustard in the potato salad provides balance. Baked beans are delicious, without too much sweetness. The menu offers alternative entrees (burgers, hot dogs, wings, chicken fingers, sandwiches, salads) fried corn on the cob, fresh lemonade and peach cobbler. Old McDonald's also serves weekend country breakfast until noon. The parking lot teems with pick-up trucks with local tags, not the metro SUV's visiting other area restaurants. The clean interior houses porcine bric-a-brac and lacks the commonplace grease and smell that connoisseurs have learned to overlook. Hurry to Old McDonald's before the SUV's find it and take over the parking lot.
Old South Bar-B-Q
601 Burbank Circle
Smyrna, Georgia 30080-1819
In business since 1968, Old South has all the moves when it comes to bold and tasty barbecue - sweet hickory smell, moist chopped meat with plenty of smoke, thick vinegar-based sauce, tangy stew with plenty of meat, beans with bits of meat and subdued molasses flavor, garlic bread lightly toasted to a golden brouwn and just enough butter, and steaming hot food served quickly. Some serious barbecue afficionados refuse to eat anywhere else. Old South lands on plenty of "Top Ten" lists for Metro Atlanta and has won several "Best of Cobb" awards. Unless you insist on sweet barbecue sauce and stew, this place may land on your list of favorites as well. Take I-75 to Windy Hill road and go west to the corner of Windy Hill Road and Burbank Circle. Open every day but Monday.
Old South Restaurant
4972 Moreland Avenue
Established in 1976, Old South Restaurant only opens Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch. The decor is an eclectic mix of Civil War relics found near the restaurant, Native American art, folk art, Warner Brothers cartoon statues, Georgia Bulldogs, Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies and cheesy souvenirs. Employees take quick cigarette drags within sight of diners between orders. "Good Country Cookin' " is the theme, and barbecue takes up much of the lunch menu. Speaking of the menu, the back page describes nearby events during the Civil War. Read fast - orders come quickly. "Meat and two" choices vary daily. Pork comes soaked in extra-mild dark vinegar sauce with a subtly sweet taste and hardly any smell. Bland without seasoning, the pork benefits greatly from pickles and Texas Pete hot sauce. Though bland taste and saturated meat create suspicions of food service barbecue, the waitress proudly informed the reviewer that the restaurant smokes its own meat. The stew has an unappetizing milky brown color and, although decent tasting, hit the table just barely warm on review day. Had it been hot, the stew might have received a passing mark, but not this time. Several customers were eating tempting vegetable plates with golden-brown cornbread. A guest reviewer enjoyed his grilled cheese sandwich and was disappointed that no homemade dessert was ordered. Old South is located on Georgia Highway 42 (Moreland Avenue) 1/2 mile north of Forest Parkway, roughly across the street from the Georgia Army National Guard and Fort Gillem.
Open Air Bar-B-Que
50 Griffin Street
A short block from McDonough's charming square is a charming barbecue spot: Open Air Bar-B-Q. With the building's raw brick skin showing on the inside, the restaurant brings to mind the modern affection for lofts and remodelled factories and warehouses. An iron pig (Pig iron?) painted pink and covered with magic marker autographs provides a diversion for carry-out customers, as does an authentic merry-go-round horse. A sign in the entrance disavows any connection with Jackson's "Fresh Air Barbecue," assuring the uninformed that customers say that Open Air's food is better. This reviewer agrees. The Daily Special (chopped pork sandwich, stew, and drink for $5.00, including tax) attracted the reviewer's attention, though other offerings looked tempting. The pork sandwich comes with a bit of mild sauce, but hot sauce and sweet mustard are available. The meat has plenty of moisture (almost too much, but not quite) and good taste. The hot sauce, barely so, has a tangy, seasoned taste that could almost pass for marinara sauce if served on spaghetti. The combination was very good, although more sauce was necessary than expected. The stew, although runny, has plenty of meat and density. The wonderfully balanced taste includes hints of tomato, salt, corn, sweetness, and pepper, with an unexpectedly prominent peppery aftertaste. Although crackers came with the stew, the stews texture works fine without it. Other offerings include salad bar, chicken fingers, and the brand new "meat-and-two" of the day, which was slated to begin the day after the review. Only the variety of choices puts O.B.'s ahead of this place, and with the new menu in the works, Open Air may soon be the frontrunner in McDonough.
The Original Golden Rule Bar-B-Q
"The South's Most Famous Bar-B-Q Since 1891" seems to win the longevity prize by a country mile. Originally from Alabama, Golden Rule is now getting ready to open its second location in Marietta. The large pork platter serving takes up an entire plate on its own - sides get their own plates. Sliced meat is better than chopped here - the chopped meat can have more fat, gristle and even bone in it that one would expect. It is smashed down to cover more plate than otherwise. Sauce is served in the middle, like mashed potatoes and gravy. The sauce is a tangy, sweet thick sauce that rates well. The stew has practically no liquid at all - a serving cannot saturate even one cracker. It has huge chunks of meat and potato, as well as whole kernels of corn. Although good, the stew was not quite like what one expects from stew. Contrary to rumor (that we have heard from more than one place), the stew contained no pineapple. The stew served with the platter does not come with jalapeno corn bread. The few low points include the sparse wait staff and the greasy fresh-cut fries. Golden Rule is a worthy stop for the curious and people that do not need to travel far to get there.
Our Way Cafe
303 E. College Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030-3707
Our Way Café, winner of Atlanta Magazine's 1999 award for Best Healthy Home Cooking, serves up southern home-cooking on the edge of downtown Decatur, next to Agnes Scott College. This funky little spot, typical of Decatur restaurants, doles out customer selections from the steam table as they walk by. Although not really a barbecue joint, Our Way regularly serves barbecue chicken and pork as part of their "meat and two" offerings, which vary day to day. The barbecue is good, although one reviewer suspects that the pork is not homemade. The vegetables are even better, and seem to rely more heavily on seasoning than on salt and fat back for taste. Cornbread and rolls also come as part of the combination meals. Prices are reasonable, but the review team left with room left over for dessert. This is a good place to take friends that like southern food, but don't necessarily like barbecue. Open for lunch Sunday through Friday, 11:00-2:30.
Pappy Red's Barbecue
867 Buford Road
13680 Arnold Mill Road
The Cumming location, right off of Georgia 400, features an aviation motif. What planes have to do with barbecue is still a mystery, but the food is worth a stop on the way to Lake Lanier.
Fountain Oaks Shopping Center
4920 Roswell Road
This is some of the best barbecue to come to town in a long time. Despite the first impression of a new strip mall restaurant in posh Buckhead, this place is the real deal. Walk in to a rush of hickory smoke that only comes with good, authentic barbecue. The usual chaos of a good barbecue restaurant at lunch time is definitely present. Sandwiches come with generous portions of meat and a sweet kitchen sauce. A hot vinegar sauce can be added. Stew is watery but very tasty. The baked beans are also good. The unusual salmon barbecue comes highly recommended, though we did not try it. If you're looking for authentic barbecue prepared well, or something a little different like the salmon, and don't have time to wander the state, try Pig-N-Chik - you won't be disappointed. Closed Mondays.
6012 Highway 42
Piggybacks has great things going for it: the finely chopped pork sandwiches, the compelling aroma, the roomy dining porch, the fried catfish on Friday and Saturday nights and the potato chips (Lays, of course). They cater and they prepare holiday hams and turkeys. On the other hand, certain food quirks may not appeal to everyone: the bland ribs and sauce, the gooey slaw (heavy mayonnaise obscures the green and orange one ordinarily expects in slaw), and the Brunswick stew (think Campbell's tomato soup with bits of tomato, pork and corn floating in it). When in doubt, stick to the sandwiches and you won't go wrong.
4580 Highway 20 S.E.
Conyers, Georgia 30013
10115 Alcovy Road
Covington, Georgia 30014-6402
Located a few blocks from McDonough's historic town square, Pippin's is hard to find and not much to look at when you get there. The food is definitely the draw here - the chopped pork sandwiches are moist and appropriately smokey. The sauce comes in mild and hot. The mild falls somewhere between "ketchup" and "ketchup on steroids," but the end result is pretty good, especially with a few drops of hot sauce added to taste. The stew is nearly perfect, almost too perfect. In fact, investigation revealed that the stew is made off-site and shipped in. If that's okay you, try it: it is light brown, mostly meat, with some corn and bits of tomato, and a good meaty taste that hits the mark. The meat is finely chopped and the texture is smooth, if slightly watery, but quite good overall. The slaw is green (no carrots), slightly sweet and runny. Lays plain and barbecue chips are served. Ribs, smoked chicken, and alternative entrees are available. Prices are reasonable and specials are particularly cheap.
Georgia Highway 515
East Ellijay, Georgia 30539
Some people have no shame. Colonel Oscar Poole has forged new frontiers in cheesy marketing to gain attention for his restaurant, placing his North Georgia restaurant in the (thankfully) exclusive ranks of Pedro's South of the Border, the elder statesman of Southeastern tourist traps. With such gimmicks as the Pig-Moby-il, the Pig Hill of Fame, and the Taj-Ma-Hog, the Colonel's promotional juggernaut has attracted national and worldwide publicity, as well as the patronage of politicians and other celebrities. So, apart from the hype, how is the food? The offerings are basic, but the food is good and keeps people coming back for more (unlike many other restaurants that exploit tackiness to attract customers). So stop by and enjoy the silliness - it's not there to distract you from bad food. If you can't visit in person, have it delivered overnight via FedEx.
Kid-friendly 'Q. R. W.'s features chopped pork saturated with a subtle vinegar sauce that adds just a hint of taste. The stew is similarly mild - only the slightest sweetness and saltiness are noticeable. Two "random" children known to dislike barbecue tasted the stew and then would not allow the reviewer to finish it without help. The friendly employees are also child-friendly. The walls feature photos of Little League teams that the restaurant has sponsored and the counter displays figurines of pigs ("Pigurines?") that the children may enjoy. While the reviewer was waiting for take-out, the two "random" children were making friends with pig statues on the floor. Sandwiches come on white bread or steamed bun. Ribs, beef and chichen are available. Interesting items include R.W.'s special (beef or pork served on garlic toast) and the "stew dog." Though this is the only barbecue restaurant we have found in Stockbridge, it seems that they have little to complain about.
Ray J's Barbecue
1474 Southlake Plaza Drive
Morrow, Georgia 30260
On the opposite side of I-75 from Southlake Mall is one of the best kept secrets south of I-20. Ray J's is a large, clean, family-friendly restaurant run by a former caterer. Offering standards like pork, beef, chicken and ribs, plus several salads, deserts and kids' items, this place really pleases. My whole family (not known for liking barbecue) enjoys the food - the kids have even asked to come back. The highlights of my visits here have been the outstanding chicken (which even my non-barbecue-eating wife loves) and the cobbler, but everything I have had measures up well. Ray J's holds its own with the best in town and is probably the best of its kind in the South Metro area. Open Monday through Saturday.
Red's Backwoods BBQ
1200 Ernest Barrett Parkway, N.W.
Great service, a rustic train theme, sweet potato fries, and six kinds of barbecue sauces make Red's a unique and memorable barbecue experience. Unfortunately, so will the uncomfortable chairs - ask for a booth. The sauces include Memphis style (sweet, mild, ketchup based), Texas style (smokey, warm, ketchup based), North Carolina style (spicy, vinegar based ), southern style (mustard based), Red's hot, and Betcha Can't East This Sauce. Word is that the Memphis style and southern style go well together (mustard plus ketchup - no big stretch there). Pulled pork sandwiches are smokey and delicious. "Special Dinners" are featured Sunday through Wednesday. Don't forget to check out the daily dessert special before getting your mint and towlettes - a must after ribs!
The Rib Ranch
25 Irby Avenue, N.W.
Rib Ranch boasts Texas-style barbecue, which conjurs up expectations of big, bold, spicey taste. The barbecue sauce comes across more like the state of Rhode Island - small and mild-mannered. This is not to say that the barbecue was bad - it was good, but the generous helping of sauce had only slightest sweetness, vinegar and spice. Meat choices include turkey and sausage, as well as the usual ribs, beef, pork and chicken. The thick stew has a slight tomato taste, small chunks of meat and a variety of vegetables, including corn, okra and lima beans. Chili and other sides are also offered. The interesting array of deliberately tacky decorations and inviting porch make this an appealing place to stop for a drink or meal after work. Thanks to Rib Ranch, you can get good barbecue even in Buckhead.
4233 Roswell Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30342-3716
Located in the A-frame chalet on the corner and Roswell and Rickenbacker (just south of Wieuca), Ribs Etc has the biggest collection of hamorobilia the review team has ever seen. The "ski lodge" effect is completed by a big, inviting fireplace on the street side of the dining area. Patio dining is available, but access to it is a mystery. Each menu features two original crayon sketches of pigs on the cover. Service is quite good. Drinks come in 32 oz. sizes, with free refills, so scope out the bathroom in advance. Appetizers include the notworthy "BBQ Sundae". Barbecue plates, consisting of a meat and two sides, start at $8.95, but rapidly escalate, as many sides cost extra. The chopped pork strongly resembles Lloyd's shredded pork at the grocery store in taste and presentation (the meat is completely sauced), but less sweet. Any smoke is hidden by the sauce. The hot sauce simlarly brings to mind Texas Pete. The baked beans are slightly sweet, with an unusually strong bean taste. The stew is slightly sweet, with a bit of tomato flavor and acceptably stew-like consistency. One of the most interesting sides is sweet potato fries served with powdered sugar. Finally, the plate includes lightly grilled Texas toast, with a touch of butter. Other than the fries, the portions are disappointingly small, especially for the price, which seemed more in line with a rib dinner. Barbecue sandwiches with a side appear to be a better bargain. Ribs Etc also offers two kinds of slaw, and lots of q-less dishes, including numerous hamburgers, two kinds of meatless burgers, various sandwiches, and salads with home made dressings. Complimentary Oreos come at dessert time. Overall, the food is ok, but not worth the premium price for food that you can match or beat for much less money at the grocery store.
Rolling Bones Premium Pit BBQ.
377 Edgewood Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30312
A stone’s throw from the Auburn Avenue Rib Shack, there was much curiosity and anticipation when this old gas station morphed into its current identity. How could it succeed in the shadow of such a perennial failure? Would the sauce be served from gasoline pumps? After squeezing our car into the parking lot, we smelled real smoke, although it seemed different somehow. Inside, the décor was immaculate, with shiny, chrome-covered tables and chairs, and blue/white paint all over. After everyone ordered pork, we learned that the food is “western-style”, meaning beef is a featured meat, wood and smoke may not be hickory, sauce is deliberately understated, and sides like Brunswick stew and baked beans are nowhere to be found. Highlights included quality cuts of meat chopped before your eyes, and well-prepared sides (including pinto beans, mustard greens, potato salad, Texas toast and excellent fries). The sauce (mild or hot) had an unappetizing and unnatural color to it, falling somewhere between cough syrup and Chinese sweet-and-sour sauce. The secret ingredient in the sauce, pineapple juice, also made the mild sauce taste like sweet-and-sour. The mild sauce was runny and vinegary-sweet, with a subtle, but prolonged afterburn. The hot sauce burned a good more, but was not painful, and had a less sweet taste. Between the mild sauce and choice of wood, the pork seemed a bit bland (we came back and really liked the tender beef brisket). Also, adding pickles (Isn’t that what they do in North Carolina?) improved the pork significantly. The strawberry cobbler has a similar color to the sauce and was merely ok. Prices seemed steep for anything other than the sandwich combo (the platter was $3 more and differed only in that we got one piece of Texas toast instead of two). If you’re looking for real Georgia redneck barbecue, keep looking; if you want to support the downtown renaissance with something just a little different, give this place a try. Open every day. Beer and house wine served.
Downtown at 120 New Street
Macon, Georgia 31201-0369
Highly recommended by locals, Satterfield's serves a wide variety of food, including "all you can eat pork", angus beef, piglets and goblets (small sandwiches served in threes), vegetables of the day, salads, and boiled peanuts. Drink pitchers stay on the tables. A mild red vinegar sauce drenches the shredded pork in a seamless union of smoke and tang, with just a touch of sweetness. Although hot and mild sauce are on the table, sandwiches taste fine "as is." The stew has a similar taste, with a watery consistency and a nice dose of corn. Home fries receive only a "fair" rating. Homemade desserts vary daily. Banana pudding scores very well, while the key lime pie lacks the pronounced tartness that our reviewer prefers. An energetic staff serves food quickly. For something different, come on Wednesday for "all you can eat" quail. Beer and wine are available, but only with meals.
2250 Sconyers Way
Augusta Georgia 30906
Named after the former mayor of Augusta, this "gourmet barbecue" claims to be a favorite of former President Jimmy Carter. Sconyers lands near the top of many "Top 10" lists and local loyalty to the food resembles that of Atlantans to Coca-Cola. Although the restaurant still operates in its original building, the building has moved to make room for a new Wal-Mart store. Ribs are featured. Days of operation are limited.
Simmons Smokehouse Pit-Cooked Bar-B-Q
2719 Highway 16 West
Jackson, Georgia 30233
Simmons sits on Georgia Highway 16 just east of I-75, Exit 205 on the way into downtown Jackson. Folks often pass this way in search of the better-known Fresh Air. Between the Fresh Air traffic and the good interstate signage, Simmons is well-positioned to attract those on the lookout for some good barbecue. The spartan building is a converted gas station, with a few pig decorations and an interesting beer can collection on shelves in the dining area. The floor is painted concrete. A covered patio accomodates diners where the pumps used to sit. Barbecue selections include pork and stew. The sandwich platter is a bargain at $3.99, although the sandwiches are on the small side. The meat is moist inside meat, with any taste hiding in the sauce. The watery red sauce tastes slightly sweet, with noticeable tomato and pepper. The ingredients are listed on the bottles (32 oz. lemon juice bottles with barbecue sauce labels pasted over the lemon juice labels) offered for sale: vinegar, ketchup, tomato paste, sugar, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and red pepper. The stew is fairly thick, with very little taste - salt, pepper and hot sauce definitely come in handy. The beans, apparently canned with little, if any enhancement, have a subtle molasses flavor. Service is quick and food comes out hot. Simmons turns out very respectable mild vinegar-based barbecue at an excellent price.
Slope's BBQ 10020 Highway 92 5865 Gateway Drive
10360 Alpharetta Street
Roswell, Georgia 30075
Woodstock, Georgia 30188
Alpharetta, Georgia 30004
10020 Highway 92
5865 Gateway Drive
Slope's sets itself apart from the crowd. Food is ordered from a counter, drinks are picked up, money is paid, and orders are brought to your table when your name is called. Service is friendly and a "lunch bunch" card gets you a free meal after buying nine. The pork sandwich is also different - the sauce is a sweet, almost fruity-tasting blend that really puzzled the reviewing team. Although the stew came out covered with greasy-looking orange liquid, it tasted ok, with plenty of meat, some white corn, and a few bits of tomato. Free drink refills are not advertised. Slope's unique sauce deserves a try, but with so many other good choices closer in, a special barbecue expedition from Atlanta may not be warranted.
1873 Piedmont Road, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30324-4838
Smokehouse Ribs boasts the only open barbecue pit in Buckhead and Midtown. Finding this tiny place 100% empty at noon on a Tuesday and looking at the menu prices, the review team nearly left before ordering, but the proprietor/cook/cashier/waiter/busboy/gopher made a convincing sales presentation. His complete pride in his own work contrasted with his absolute disdain for the competitor just down the street sparked enough curiosity to keep the reviewers in their seats. After a short wait, the orders came: huge pulled meat sandwiches on sub rolls with a thick brown sauce. The meat had a good, smokey taste and virtually no fat. The sauce was a deliciously complex combination of pepper, vinegar, tomato and some sweetness. The baked beans were equally good. Come on Sunday or Monday for mac n' cheese, a coarse (as opposed to Stouffer's smooth) mixture with plenty of cheese and a bit of pepper. Stew and cornbread are only available now and then, but are reputed to be quite good. Although chicken and ribs are featured, other barbecued sandwich meats, including pork, beef, turkey breast, hot dogs and smoked sausage, were available. Pork and beef are wonderful, while turkey is just average, and smoked sausage can be a bit dried out. Interesting sides included barbecued corn on the cob and grilled and sauteed vegetables. Combination choices are limited to chicken and ribs, but sandwiches come with one side included and sides also come a la carte. Deserts include cobbler and cheesecake, with optional Haagen Dazs ice cream. Open every day, Smokehouse Ribs is first-rate and one of the best places inside I-285.
1617 11th Avenue
A local favorite, their barbecue sanwich features finely-chopped meat, good sauce, a vinegar-based slaw served on top of the sandwich meat and a pickle. The brunswick stew is also noteworthy.
Sodexho Marriott Services
133 Peachtree Street, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-1808
Okay, this is not a barbecue joint under any stretch of the imagination, but it fills a worthwhile niche. Located at the top of the lobby escalator in Georgia-Pacific's headquarters, this food court is the only place we know that serves decent barbecue in the heart of the downtown business district. And surprisingly good it is – moist beef or pork comes on a thick slice of bread with a mild tomato sauce, two side dishes and a drink, all for a reasonable price. This barbecue makes good comfort food – smooth, easy taste with a nice, warm feeling. The sides are also not bad – the baked beans are canned with a bit of molasses (just like Mom used to make), the slaw is sweet and devoid of excess mayonnaise, and the potato salad is perfectly acceptable. Without stew or discernable hardwood smoke, this place won't win any awards, but it is great for downtown workers who want their barbecue within walking distance. Kind of ironic that the food service in a tree company's headquarters doesn't cook with real wood. . .
Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q
Sonny's is to barbecue what McDonald's is to hamburgers - mass-produced mediocrity. The meat is moist, but it takes on the taste of ashes rather than the smoke. The sauces have a grainy consistency, as if someone took a powdered mix and added water plus a few other ingredients to thicken it up. While the original and hot sauces have a bitter, unappealing taste, the sweet sauce overwhelms with sugar (something the kids might appreciate). If your neighborhood smoke pit closes on Sunday and you just can't wait, get carry-out and use your favorite sauce from your private stash. Even then, you might want to reconsider.
715 Glynn Street S
Fayetteville, Georgia 30214-2049
Speedi-Pig has moved about a half mile south of its old location on the corner of Georgia Highway 85 at Georgia Highway 138. Two words tell the story here: "smoked wings." They are wonderful. If you tell the cashier that you are new to the restaurant (Tell the truth!), you may get a free sample. The other food is generally good, but not in the same league as the wings: the pork sandwiches are served "wet" with pretty much all inside meat, a watery sweet sauce with a hint of pepper, and a couple of pickles (similar to those at Dean's in Jonesboro). Sauce comes in "mild" and "hot" varieties. The stew is also watery with a hint of pepper and big chunks of meat, but mostly lacking in taste. Crackers and hot sauce remedy both problems. Plain and barbecue Lays potato chips are served. Free refills on drinks. Service is friendly and some specials are quite a bargain for barbecue. Limited inside seating and plenty of covered patio seating are available. Speed over to Speedi-Pig for some great wings.
Spiced Right Barbecue
5364 Lawrenceville Highway, N.W.
Lilburn, Georgia 30247-5925
Not much wrong with "Championship Quality" Spiced Right. The inexpensive buffet varies daily, with sides like corn, tater tots and macaroni and cheese, as well as the requisite baked beans, brunswick stew, slaw and potato salad. Cornbread apparently comes in two varieties: regular and sweet. The sweet version has bits of corn and almost passes for dessert. The beans combine spice and sweetness for a unique and delicious version of this dish. The stew screams, "Tomato!" but potato pieces provide some balance - add cornbread if necessary. The pulled pork is moist, fragrant and yummy. The wide variety of excellent original sauces makes experimentation a real treat. The red sauces come in "Mild," "Hot," "The Lilburner," and "The Killer." The "Mild" has unique flavor with no heat, the "Hot" has noticeable heat, and the "Lilburner" is best applied drop-by-drop. Surprisingly, the Lilburner also has plenty of taste, and a waitress called it the most popular sauce. The mustard sauces come in "Mild" and "Hot." There is also a North Carolina-style vinegar sauce and a sweet sauce that was not on the menu at review time. The sweet sauce, although too much of a good thing by itself, goes great with the mustard or the hot red sauce. The waitresses are skillful, friendly, and good with children. Even the catering menu scores big, featuring MUCH more than just barbecue. But wait, there's more - Spiced Right even serves beer! It doesn't get much better than this. Minor nits: the meat is apparently cooked in a stainless steel commercial smoker rather than a brick pit and the green beans taste "canned", but these nits did nothing to lessen the complete enjoyment of eating at this place. Open for lunch seven days a week and dinner Thursday through Saturday.
1060 Hwy 34 E,
Newnan, Georgia 30265
229 Jackson St,
Newnan, Georgia 30263
A favorite of late Atlanta celebrity Lewis Grizzard, Sprayberry's has been run by the same family since 1926. Distinguishing offerings include giant onion rings, cobbler and combination meals with interesting names. The original Jackson Street location is spacious and air-conditioned, while retaining a historic barbecue landmark feel; the new Highway 34 location feels more like a Chick-fil-a dwarf house with a barbecue smell (It even has a drive-thru window!). Die-hard fans swear by the original location, but they're both good (and close enough to each other that you can compare the food side-by-side if you really feel the need).
The Swallow at the Hollow
1072 Green Street
Roswell, Georgia 30075
Great gourmet barbecue now has a home in Roswell. Bursting on to the scene in December, 1999, the Swallow has drawn a lot of publicity and media attention, partly because of its affiliation with Greenwood's on Green Street across the street. This 130-year old rustic, over-sized cabin (formerly the now defunct Georgia Pig) has plain wood walls and floors, metal ceiling, and slickly varnished picnic tables, These slick, hard surfaces enhance noise levels to create a summer camp mess hall atmosphere. The whacking noise of chopping meat occasionally pierces the din. A professional-looking kitchen sits in plain view of tables, with homemade bread and bananas neatly arranged and awaiting their destiny. The dining room includes TV's in strategic corners and a tiny stage. Service is friendly and reasonably attentive. Entrees include pork, beef, turkey, ribs, smoked sausage, Portabella mushrooms and huge salads. The sliced pork, presented beautifully, is the best our reviewers has ever had. It comes in thick, moist, tender slices with no significant fat. The portabella mushroom sandwich (with gouda cheese and fried green tomatoes) nearly brought a reviewer to tears (of joy). Three gourmet house sauces include tomato-based, vinegar, and mustard. The brown tomato-based sauce is sweet, slightly smokey, and full of "whang." The vinegar sauce, billed as hot, is watery, with herbs and spices that settle to the bottom of the bottle, so frequent shaking (with your finger over the hole) is recommended. The vinegar sauce, the reviewers' favorite, has a sweet, mild taste with no noticeable heat, and it disapears on the meat. One reviewer combined the uniquely seasoned vinegar and tomato sauces with satisfactory results. The smooth and full-flavored mustard sauce, although no one's favorite, was good enough to rotate with the other two for variety. Three homemade breads include cabin bread (crusty white bread), Texas toast, and biscuits. The stew has a subtle flavor with slight leaning toward tomato. Although watery side, it is good, especially with some bread added in. Other sides include Three Bean Baked Beans (sweet, with unusual flavor), casserole-style macaroni and cheese with a surprising lemon/poppy seed crust, and homemade pickles. Those with the sense to save room or lack of sense to stop eating can try the banana chocolate chip, which is great, but hard to handle after such a stellar meal. Cokes are served. The only things to watch out for are the odd hours and the payment terms (cash and checks but no credit cards).
Georgia Highway 138 at Tara Boulevard
This Is It! traces its origins back to a black-owned restaurant started in 1951 in Tampa, Florida. Atlanta's several This Is It! franchises come in three varieties – barbecue, seafood, and "express" (limited seating – mainly carry-out). Call ahead and make sure your destination has what you want before you make a special trip. On review day, the reviewed location served up dry, over-cooked chopped pork and they were out of Coca-Cola. Otherwise, the food was ok – the sauce drenching the pork tasted quite sweet and peppery (it would go well on ribs), the fries were hot and fresh (but a little fishy tasting), and the stew had a prominent sweet taste with hot aftertaste. The pickle served with the sandwich was enemic. The cashier lacked much-needed training. The "express" seating raised the table to arm pit height. This restaurant may have been caught on a bad day, but franchised restaurants shouldn't have bad days – quality controls and standards should prevent this. Once again, it appears that franchising can be barbecue's worst enemy.
Two Brothers Bar-B-Que
Old Federal Road
This place makes everyone's short list. The food is outstanding and the atmosphere is authentic - sawdust on the floor and real old-timey junk on display on the walls and in display cases. Save room for dessert - homemade vanilla ice cream! Don't miss this place if you are ever in the neighborhood.
U.S. Bar B Q & Grill
1800 Howell Mill Road
Barbecue has taken over the old Copper Kettle (think "Waffle House") at Howell Mill Road and I-75 as of November, 1999. Looking a lot like a franchise with tasteful signage and matching uniforms (denim shirts and hats), USBBQ has an appealing, bright shiny and new look, with only the waitress's Holiday Inn name tag looking out of place. Although in its infancy, the restaurant already draws a respectable lunch crowd. USBBQ serves a variety of barbecue choices, as well as chicken tenders and burgers. The lunch special is a great bargain, and includes a sandwich, fries, beans and slaw for under $5.00. The smokey, moist chopped pork is pre-seasoned with a small amount of peppery vinegar sauce, enough to add taste and color, but not enough to saturate the meat. The outside meat can sometimes be over-cooked. It is topped with a traditional ketchup-style sauce, with what seems to be two other more hot/spicey varieties at the table. The tiny serving of dark Brunswick stew comes a la carte for $2.00. It tastes great – plenty of pepper, along with noticeable meat, potato, tomato and sweetness. The sweet slaw has bits of pepper and a lot of liquid in it. The wonderful baked beans apparently have bits of chili in them - the taste is noticeably sweet with some heat. Fries can be overly crisp. Those with room for dessert can choose between lemon ice box pie and chocolate peanut butter pie. Breakfast time starts at 5:30. The big problem here is one common to Waffle House and other places like it: cigarette smoke from other tables. If that bothers you, fill out the "Customer To-Go Order Pad" and take some good food home.
"Varbecue?" Of all the delicious foods offered by the Varsity, barbecue does not immediately come to mind. However, it is served there and the Varsity has enough of a mystique and cult devotion to get reviewed here. Their chopped pork sandwich provides an acceptable alternative to the usual chili dog or chili steak, but don't forget the onion rings, fried pie and frosted orange.
Wallace Barbecue Restaurant
3035 Bankhead Hwy
Lithia Springs, Georgia
Wallace's features vinegar-based barbecue that sets it apart from many other Georgia barbecue restaurants. Although the North Carolina sauce is not as popular in Georgia, many barbecue lovers recommend Wallace's highly. However, the review team does not hold this style of barbecue in high esteem (See "Hudson Hickory House" above).
Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q
1425 Roswell Road
Marietta, Georgia 30062
In business since 1990, Williamson Bros. has quickly gained an impressive reputation. Danny and Larry hit the big time when they catered gatherings for local congressmen Newt Gingrich and Bob Barr. Their saucey sandwiches feature plenty of chewy outside meat. The sauce is a mild, sweet concoction with a hint of pepper that some swear by, while others find too bland. The sweet, spicey stew provides welcome relief from a world of Brunswick pabulum. Williamson fans get especially excited about the homemade pies and the ribs (but with the same sauce, your mileage may vary). The barbecue beans swim in molasses and really hit the spot if you like your baked beans sweet. Pregnant women can satisfy odd cravings with fried dill pickles. There's plenty of food alternatives for the barbecue haters in your party, if you associate with such people. Eat inside or on the porch. The only question is, now that the brothers Williamson are selling bottled barbecue sauce and opening a second location, will they be spoiled by their success? Stay tuned and find out.