ATL Area BBQ

This page reflects my opinion on various BBQ joints I've visited in the greater Atlanta area, FWIW.

Heirloom Market BBQ

Heirloom is a tiny rump of a BBQ place sharing part of a building with a convenience store.  There is very little seating inside, and the c-store itself has a tiny parking lot.  Unless someone told you about it, you'd probably never stop by there.  But, you should.  The BBQ was very good.  Good luck getting in there on a weekday during lunch, though.

I had brisket, pulled pork, and pork spare ribs.  Everything was perfectly cooked and *very* smokey.  Nothing was dry at all.  They have a variety of sauces available, with the default being "Table Sauce."

Brisket:  Tender, from the lean side of the brisket, and it'd pass muster in Texas;

Pulled pork:  Competent.  Not dry, not fatty, nice smoke flavor.

Ribs:  Above average.  They were gorgeous, and perfectly cooked, but the rub lacked passion.

Sauces:  I would've liked to see a vinegar based sauce, just to see how it went with the pulled pork.  I think they have room to improve on their sauces, but they get bonus points for having more than just a couple of them.

Sides:  They were a bit limited on the offerings there, IMHO.  I tried the slaw, and it was inventive and tasty.  It didn't sit in the fridge overnight.  The cabbage and carrots were snappy.

Atmosphere:  Cramped quarters, very friendly staff.  

Random:  Lots of home made kimchi and other goodies also for sale.  Also, odd-ball sodas.  The proprietor is of Korean origin, but she *definitely* gets Southern BBQ!

Update:  I hear they only do take-out now, because of some whining from some pathetic assholes.  Really sad, because the place had character inside.  That being said, I'll still go there, and I'll still park my 4X4 SUV wherever I want, snag my BBQ, then tail-gate in the area. 

Update #2:  Voted best BBQ in the ATL in numerous categories, and I can't argue with that.

Update #3:  Word is the traffic / parking nonsense got worked out, and one can dine-in there again as of 10/04/13.

Williamson Bros

Kind of a rambling place in Marietta.  Parking is spacious, and they have a lot of seating space in there.  Rustic interior inside.  BBQ was competent, but not something I'd go too far out of the way for again.

I tried their 2 meat combo plate, with pork and beef.  I also had sides of potato salad and slaw.

Beef:  Chopped beef, already sauced.  Not bad, but I'm used to sliced brisket.  Chopped beef should usually be served on a bun, IMHO.  It was competent, but not notable.  Properly cooked, though.

Pork:  Competent.  Smokey, flavorful, but it just didn't stand out.  

Sauces:  Since the meat was already sauced, I didn't really get a chance to try anything other than what was already on the meat.  It was ok, but not remarkable.

Sides:  The slaw was generic, but the potato salad was actually some of the best I've ever had.

Atmosphere:  Welcome to Chili's, I'll be your server today!

Random:  BBQ portions were *huge*.  I didn't walk away hungry.

Community Q

There is an old strip mall over in Decatur that is now full of restaurants, and in the middle of that sits Community Q.  Parking lot would probably work if there was just a Piggly Wiggly and a Ben Franklin 5 and dime there, as it probably was in 1962.   It isn't enough to handle the traffic those restaurants generate today, though.  Good luck parking there anytime around weekday lunch.

I've had beef, pork, and spare ribs there, more than once.  This is one of the best BBQ places in Atlanta, bar none.

Beef:  Excellent.  This is what other contestants fear facing, in professional BBQ cook-offs.

Pork: See above

Ribs: See above

Sauces:  Seriously unnecessary, so I dunno.  It would be almost blasphemous to put sauce on their 'cue... 

Sides:  I never tried them, because I fill up on BBQ.  It is that good. 

Atmosphere:  Fast and friendly service.  You can tell the people running the place have a serious passion for BBQ.  They also sell local produce in season, so you may see that displayed when you are working your way through the line up to the register.

Pig & Chick

Nothing to see there, IMHO.  It might be better at other locations, but I am not a fan of the Alpharetta location, if it is even still open.  I tried it 3 times, and it struck out with me.

Spiced Right

There are three locations I know of, and they are all a little different.  There is this old house over in Lilburn.  A fancy storefront in Suawanee.  A divey looking place in Roswell.  Mostly, I've eaten at the divey place in Roswell.  It looks like a complete shithole from the outside, and the parking is very limited.  Totally worth it, though!

Beef:  Award winning, although I'd suggest you ask to have it off the lean side.  They don't quite seem to grok that the fatter side is meant for chopped beef sandwiches.

Ribs: Once amazing, and now they are just extremely good.  They have a different cook the last few months, and the rub lacks the sass it used to have.  But they are still served in cave-man sized portions, and smokey as a forest fire.

Pork:  The best I've had in the ATL.  They've set a very high bar with that.

Turkey:  Amazing.  Never dry, just perfectly done.

Sauces:  Only a couple, and if I'm right Dr. Pepper is the "secret ingredient."  A little cloying, too sweet for me, but their 'cue doesn't need sauce anyway.

Sides:  Hash Brown Casserole is a must try.  Never had a bad side there.

Atmosphere:  The Roswell location is a lot like a biker bar.  Dump you'd never go to for the food unless someone you trusted vouched for it.

Scolding:  The fatty side of the brisket is for making chopped beef sandwiches, and shouldn't be sliced and served outside of that. 

Update:  The ribs are BACK as of a 10/10/13 sampling.  Freakin' amazing again!

J's Southern Smoke

Easy to miss if you blink, while riding up Route 9 through Cumming.  It's in a building that doesn't really face the road, as much as it does a bank parking lot.  

Beef:  I was prepared to hate it, because they obviously slice and store it, then heat it up later, and that is usually a really bad sign - it tends to ruin the bark by making it mushy, and dries out the meat.  Their brisket also had no visible smoke ring.  And yet, it was still pretty good.  Didn't need sauce, nice layer of fat on it, perfectly done.  Nicely smokey.

Ribs:  Meh  They only had baby backs and that is an instant loser with me.  They were undercooked, too fatty, and just, well, meh.

Pork:  The pulled pork didn't work for me.  There was a clash between the rub and the smoke that just didn't seem right.  It was kinda bitter and ashy in a way I didn't like.  Like when you use mesquite on pork - just ain't meant to be, IMHO.

Sauces:  This is where it gets odd.  They had 4:  Mustard [meh], vinegar [meh], sweet [not bad], and smokey [served in a bottle from Sonny's, on every table, like they borrowed it or something?!?].  Even had the big "S" from Sonny's on it?!?  I may be wrong, but that's what I was thinking...

Sides:  Generic, and while not bad, they were not very interesting.

Atmosphere:  Small place, clean, neat inside.

Random:  They started out catering, and their catered 'cue might be better?

Swallow in the Hollow

This is a [once] legendary place in Roswell.  Rambling wood framed, old, limited parking, and a real bitch to get into on weekends.  I tried it around 7 years ago, and found nothing I liked.  5 years ago, same experience.  2 years ago, same thing.  I do not like any of their BBQ.  3 strikes...

Beef:  Meh.

Pork:  Meh.

Ribs:  Meh

Sides:  Meh

Sauces:  Never got to them, because I pitched the BBQ after tasting it.

Atmosphere:  Pretty cool place to go drink beer, but I won't eat there.

Random:  Rumor has it that there was a falling out between the folks who used to make that place work, and a lot of them left, ending up founding another place in Alpharetta.

'Cue

Competent BBQ.  The one in Alpharetta was, at least originally, staffed with refugees from Swallow in the Hollow, or so they told me.  Personality conflicts or some such spun them off from there.  The one on Buford Hwy in Cumming isn't quite as good.

Beef:  Competent.

Pork:  Smokey, and it is a cut above most pulled pork you find around the ATL. 

Ribs:  They do baby backs, and my experience with those is not great.  Tough and not so great here.

Sides:  Not really inspired, but competent.  The home-made pickles are very good.

Sauce:  The Carolina sauce is actually very good, and I think it has Hoisin sauce as an ingredient?

Side note:  The staff is wonderful!

Grand Champion:

The original is a few doors down from a Publix in that gray area between Roseell and Marietta.  Not sure if it is in East Cobb, or still in Fulton.. Clean place, friendly staff, never seems to be crowded, which is a shame because they make some excellent BBQ...

Beef: Nice smoke ring, not dry, very tasty.

Pork: Nice mix between lean and fatty, very smokey, done right.

Ribs:  Not a fan of baby backs, but they actually pull that off successfully here.

Sides:  They actually put effort into those, and it mostly works, although their sides have sort of an odd flavor twist to them.  The baked beans should come with a shot of insulin, because they are sugary to the point of being candy.  Tasty, though.

Sauce:  The sweet sauce is a little prune / Dr. Pepper flavored, but not bad.  The Carolina style sauce is sassy.

Side note:  Competent.

Scolding:  The fatty side of the brisket is for making chopped beef sandwiches, and shouldn't be sliced and served outside of that.

Update:  The Crabapple location is very, very good! 

Big Shanty:

The place is an old house in Kennesaw with very limited parking.  They have a pit out back, and they know how to use it!  This is one of the best BBQ places in the ATL.  I have not had brisket from there yet, but I can do a review of the ribs and pulled pork:

Ribs:  Amazing.  They re-heat their BBQ out of a fridge, which is usually the kiss of death.  Not so much here.  Rub is perfect, ribs couldn't be better.

Pork:  They do pulled pork two different ways:  Chopped 'outside' and pulled 'inside.'  Both are at a higher level than most of the pulled pork I've had.  Go with the chopped 'outside.'

Sauce:  No idea, never tasted it, doesn't even need it.

Places I've been to, in the queue for a written review:

Smoke Jack

Chain places that I think merit a review:

Jim & Nick's

Sonny's

On the agenda:

Fox Brothers

Sweet Auburn Market

???  


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