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Athens, GA area BBQ

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Does anyone have any recommendations for barbecue in the Athens, Georgia area?

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  1. The barbecue in Athens proper isn't very good. Hot Thomas in Watkinsville and the place on route 78 in downtown Lexington are excellent and in easy driving distance. (Sorry, the name of the latter escapes me, but you can't miss it: small town.)

    Somewhere on this site there is, or at least was, a report that covered northeast Georgia barbecue, perhaps among other topics. It wasn't a post to this board, but a self-contained write-up with photographs. Not sure how many tips that had, but it's probably worth doing a search.

    Let me know if you discover anything else around Athens. Thanks.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Derek

      Paul's is the name of the place in Lexington & pigfan is correct, Lexington is not very big so it will be hard to miss. If memory serves it is only open on Sat mornings.
      I am racking my brain to think of any good barbecue places in Athens proper & nothing comes to mind. There are so many other great eating places in Athens I never even consider barbecue when there.

      1. re: Lan4Dawg

        I haven't been in years and years but are the Swamp Guinea and the Pinecrest Lodge still open?

        1. re: Joe H.

          Just checked the yellow pages (I live in Athens) and there is a listing for "Charlie Williams Pinecrest Lodge" but nothing for Swamp Guinea. Is this Pinecrest place worth checking out?

          One more comes to mind since my last post, also not in Athens. A place on route 29 in Danielsville (past the circle if you're coming from Athens) -- just a roadside cart, really, but pretty good product.

          1. re: Derek

            The Swamp Guinea was virtually identical to the Pinecrest Lodge which, yes, is most definitely worth checking out. Not just food but the overall experience which was one of the most unique in America.

          2. re: Joe H.

            alas, the Swamp Guinea is no more but Charlie Williams' Pinecrest Lodge is still packing them in. It is an experience. The food is good, not great, but there is so much of it!

            There is a place called the Barbecue Shack that some one mentioned to me. It is out on Lexington Rd and supposedly a hit w/ some folks. The place is only open on Fr/Sat & I think the place in Danielsville is Zeb Dean's.

            1. re: Lan4Dawg

              I'm not a big fan of Barbecue Shack on Lexington (which is across the street from Walmart on the east side, if you're interested in trying it yourself).

              The pork shoulder is reasonably good but not distinctive. And the ribs taste heavily charred -- not unpleasant, but not proper barbecue either.

              It does get crowded, though, so maybe my take is idiosyncratic.

              1. re: Lan4Dawg

                Old post I know, but are we talking the Swamp Guinea that was somewhere out in "the boonies," that I went to in the mid-70's when I was at Supply Corps School in Athens? I remember long tables, VERY sweet iced tea, and great hush puppies and fried catfish. Was there another one more recently?

              2. re: Joe H.

                was just up there yesterday & found out that Charlie William's Pine Crest Lodge is still open but only for banquets. For now, anyway, they are not serving the public.

                1. re: Lan4Dawg
                  athena (Mary Anne O'Neal)

                  JB's on Broad has good barbecue. The hot is very hot. Get it to go, not a place you'd want to linger.

          3. It's been a few years, but I recall that Hart's in Commerce was pretty good. If you take the exit to Athens from I-85 (441) and make a right on Elm St to head over to Commerce its about a mile or so on the left.

            Maybe somebody else has a more current report on the place.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Brent Kulman

              Hart's was excellent the last time I was able to get by there. However, it was at least three years ago. Worth a try.

            2. Ahhhh.....Barbecue.

              Here are a few in the area from my master list to get you started. I've been to some, some are better than others and some may have been already mentioned.

              As usual, call first. And let us know....Enjoy.


              Barbeque Shack - 4320 Lexington Rd - 706/613-6752 - BBQ - Chicken, pork and ribs served with a variety of sides such as baked beans and cole slaw - Homemade banana pudding or cake - Drive-through window - Th-Sat L&D

              Charlie Williams Pinecrest - Locations: 473 Hwy 29N, 706/354-7900; 2020 Timothy Rd, 706/549-6552 - BBQ - Catfish, shrimp, chicken, steak, hamburgers and sandwiches with fries, hushpuppies, sides and home-style desserts - Different setup than original Pinecrest Lodge, but same food - Drive-through service at both locations - 7d L&D

              Charlie Williams Pinecrest Lodge - 1 Pinecrest Lodge Rd - 706/353-2606 - Southern foods - Barbecue, catfish, seafood, greens, hushpuppies - All-you-can-eat seafood, steak and barbecue buffet on F and Sat and an all-you-can eat country-style buffet with catfish, fried chicken, barbecue, macaroni and cheese, collards, desserts and more for Sunday lunch - Original location - F-Sat L&D, Sun L

              Fresh Air Barbeque - 1110 Hull Rd - 706/546-6060 - BBQ - Spinoff from Jackson (Flovilla) and Macon GA locations

              Bogart (NE, ~5 mis W of Athens)

              Fresh Air Barbeque - 5170 Atlanta Hwy - 770/725-5227 - BBQ - Spinoff from Flovilla

              Danielsville (NE, ~15 mis NNE of Athens, on US 29)

              Dean Zeb Bar-B-Que (aka Zebs Bar B Que) - Royston Rd (US 29) - 706/795-2701 - BBQ with pepper-vinegar sauce - Tu-Sun L, Tu-Sat D

              Franklin Springs (far NE, ~25 mis NE of Athens, ~2 mis E of Royston)

              Bar H Barbecue - 1380 E. Main St - 706/245-0022 - BBQ - Casual - Eat in or takeaway - No res - $, MC/V

              Hull (NE, ~8 mis NE of Athens on SR 72)

              Bills Bar B Que - Danielsville Rd (10010 Fortson Store Rd, off US 29) - 706/549-4949 - BBQ - Chopped pork or beef, FFs, hushpuppies, fish strips, shrimp, chicken strips, sandwiches, hamburgers, hamburger steaks - L&D

              Lexington (NE, ~10 mis E of Athens, along US 78)

              Paul's Barbecue - US 78 (downtown) - 706/743-8254 (listed as Paul George, Elberton Rd, Carlton, GA) - BBQ - Hickory- and red oak-smoked pork, Brunswick stew, Bunny brand white bread - Meats are cooked on his farm then brought to little store on Sat AMs where meat is pulled and sauced - Tables and folding chairs - Open Fourth of July and Sats from ~0900h til stew and meat is gone (~1400h)

              Watkinsville (NE mid, ~10 mis S of Athens, along US 129)

              Thomas Barbecue (aka Hot Thomas Barbeque & Peach Orchard) - 3753 Greensboro Hwy - 706/769-6550 - BBQ - Pork barbecue, ribs, chicken (Sat only), Brunswick stew, chili dogs, burgers, homemade desserts - Platter with large heap of hickory-cooked pork, good sweet-pickle cole slaw, Brunswick stew and white bread - Dark red, vinegary sauce (order hot) - M-Sat from 0800h, but maybe as late as 1045h

              2 Replies
              1. re: SBCochran

                should have read your post first

                1. re: SBCochran

                  Fresh Air and Hot Thomas' are both very good. I've tried to find Zeb's before--it has a legendary status--but I've never been able to find the damn place!

                2. 'tis no more, but the only answer to a question about Athens BBQ used to be Poss's.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: wabbitslayer

                    Could someone please describe Poss's sauce for me? Thanks,

                    1. re: dvreed

                      My mother's best friend dated one of the Poss boys in high school, and managed to get her hands on the family recipe. Nothing special - smoke a big chunk of pork and then simmer it in a vinegar-tabasco sauce. I can get the details if you are interested.

                      We grew up on Poss's; fresh when it was available, canned and homemade when we moved north.

                      1. re: billfolk

                        PLEASE post the Poss's sauce recipe -- we're talkiing about my childhood here [my cousins worked there], but also the important fact that it was not a thick red sauce. [see our book about NC BBQ, Holy Smoke -- sorry, couldn't resist the plug]

                        Holy Smokes
                        1944 Braselton Hwy Ste 109, Buford, GA 30519

                        1. re: dvreed

                          OK, disclaimer: I got this recipe from my mother, who got if from her best friend, who said she got it from Bobby Poss in high school. It has been passed down on 3x5 recipe cards for the last, oh, 50 years or so. So it may or may not bear any resemblance to the Poss' s from our childhood, but it tastes good anyway.

                          Get a 3 or 4 lb pork butt, or if you can't find that, shoulder. Score it deeply and rub it with rock salt. Smoke it, or if you don't have a smoker, soak it with half a bottle of hickory liquid smoke and roast covered it in a very low oven until it is falling off the bone.

                          Pull the meat off the bone, break it up, remove any fatty, gristly bits, and strain off the cooking liquid. In my mother's recipe it appears that the cooking liquid is discarded, which seems a waste. I de-fat it and use in in place of some of the water for the sauce that follows.

                          Sauce: mix 2 cups cider vinegar and 2 cups water, 1 tsp thyme, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 onion - whole with skin, 1 bay leaf, lots of cracked black pepper to taste (according to mom the black pepper flavor should be fairly prominent for this style of barbecue), and 6 or 7 small red chilis (she used red chili flakes or Tabasco when these were not available). Simmer the sauce for about half an hour, strain, and pour over the meat in a casserole. Return the meat to a low oven for at least half an hour or so.

                          This is a little hotter and has a more prominent vinegar taste than I remember, but it was a long time ago so I can't be sure, The canned Poss's seemed to have a slight sweetness to it, but I could be confusing the BBQ with the Brunswick stew - it was so long ago and I was just a little kid.

                          1. re: billfolk

                            Sounds right to me --- my cousin, who used to work there, remembered the onions and of course the vinegar. I like it because it's clearly an old recipe and clearly related to the ur-recipe in North Carolina, central Tennessee, and other odd places like Blytheville, Arkansas. Thank you very much for taking the trouble to post it.

                            1. re: dvreed

                              I should mention that the sauce recipe is for TWO pork butts, so if your are just cooking one as I described, you would make half as much sauce.

                          2. re: dvreed

                            Well I got around to buying your book, and I really enjoyed it. It got me motivated to pick up a smoker and start doing it right. The recipe was good made in the oven with liquid smoke, but real wood smoke takes it to a whole new level. I highly recommend your book to anyone who is serious about barbeque. Under the influence of your book, I have committed the heresy of adding ketchup to my sauce (and slaw), and I have to say, it's not half bad!

                            1. re: billfolk

                              Thanks -- I certainly didn't expect to sell a book when we got into this conversation -- that's a bonus. I like that Lexington NC style with ketchup myself -- and because it's shoulders rather than whole hog, it's a little smokier, which I also like. There's very little BBQ I don't like, however. Have fun. We've just gotten a new smoker ourselves and are having a great time branching out, even unto brisket.

                    2. My friends and I really dig Zeb Dean's and Jot 'Em Down - Zebs is a little drive from Athens, but Jot 'Em Down is out on the east side.

                      1. There's a new place in Watkinsville (Smokin' Stevie's, on Mars Hill Road) that's not bad. It's not Paul's, and the sauce is a bit tomatoey, but it's pretty tasty and not very far. They also take credit cards.

                        1. hot thomas....ordinary; fresh air, the same. zeb's more of it. the one in lexington is good but they use fresh ham and not shoulder. jot'em down is good. have hope....there is a smoker and trailer on the lot next to what i call ' the flying chicken' place at the point where extension meets 441 business (main st) and it is REALLY GOOD! and the stew has not been ruined by a pressure cooker as is almost ALL north georgia stew. one can actually see the corn and butter beans floating around.....savannah style she says and it is true - that is where i first had it and it should not resemble mush. the folks who run the trailer are going to open over next to the high school on hog mountain and they will laugh all the way to the bank. one big problem with bbq places is that even if the bbq is good, the sides are invariably terrible...too sweet beans, too sweet slaw and something almost inedible called 'texas toast', a greasy slice of fried bread. not so at the trailer, the bread is unusually good, the slaw is o.k. and at least not too sweet. my own opinion is that if the beans are sweet-ish (and the almost always are), then the slaw ought to balance it out by a little tang....as in n.y. deli slaw. this guy may do it as he is (gasp!) not from the south but from the bronx.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: mzim

                            Talk about coming to Athens with the hatedown. You sign up one day and proceed to trash almost everything across half a dozen or so posts. What exactly are your qualifications? And why a problem with using a fresh ham instead of a shoulder? If you were in NC, they'd tell you to use the whole pig.

                            1. re: mzim

                              Texas Toast is griddled and delicious.

                              And you ruin your cred by saying that Southern slaw to accompany barbecue should be like NY deli slaw.

                              "Extension meets 441" - can you elaborate on this? In Watkinsville?

                              1. re: Dax

                                Sounds like it's by Chicken Express.

                              2. re: mzim

                                Several of these statements seem to indicate personal preferences, rather than statements about quality. The various opinions regarding barbecue itself, cole slaw, brunswick stew, baked beans, and even sweet tea - and of course, the sauce - are more numerous than gnats below the gnat line.

                                I have enjoyed finding the variety. Fresh Air in Bogart was a place I drove by one Sunday afternoon just about the time I was telling my wife that I could use a light snack. A chopped pork sandwich and a glass of sweet tea filled the bill much better than my other options. Was it the greatest barbecue I have ever had? No! Would I stop there again for a snack or a meal? Yes!

                                It does seem to be true, in my experience, that the sides are often disappointing - places let the barbecue carry the dining experience. A couple of notable exceptions - although not in the immediate area of Athens - are the two locations of Sam & Dave's BBQ in Marietta and Bub-Ba-Q in Jasper. Slope's BBQ in Roswell and Sandy Springs also do a much better than average job with their sides.

                              3. A greasy slice of fried bread sounds delicious.

                                1. Zeb Deans is fairly good and has all the atmosphere you can hope for .
                                  Jot Em Down is good but never open when I want it.
                                  I love JD's ribs and his smokers are right there out back, the Q often has black burnt pieces which is not the way I like it.
                                  I activly dislike Fresh Air, a friend had his wedding reception there and it was a major disaster.
                                  Hot Thomas is fairly good but drive 20 mins further south to Greensboro for much better.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: gashrink

                                    Up date:
                                    Jot EM Down is d'bomb! I love North Carolina style BBQ and Jot Em Down has the best I've had in the state.Nice smoke flavor and a perfectly balanced hot and sour sauce it's out of the way for me but worth the drive.

                                    1. re: gashrink

                                      Do you have an address or exact location for Jot 'em Down? Thanks so much!

                                      1. re: carolinadawg

                                        Go to the end of College Station and turn right (I think it's called Barnett shoals road there.) Go past the next light (where Barnett Shoals turns) and its the little wood sided building on your right. It's a little old country store.
                                        I love their vinegar based sauce.

                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                          The Jot 'Em Down Country Store sits near the intersection of Whitehall and Barnett Shoals Roads.
                                          Owners: Danny Bell, Bill Morton, Elrod Sims
                                          Type: retail household goods, weekend barbecue restaurant
                                          Address: 150 E. Whitehall Road
                                          Phone: (706) 549-2110
                                          Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday

                                            1. re: carolinadawg

                                              Went to Jot 'Em Down this weekend (its great to find a "Q joint open on Sundays!) and I thought it was fabulous! Great old time, country store atmosphere. The "Q is moist, tender and smoky, served unsauced, with 6 or 7 different kinds of sauces on the table to put on it. (Try "Elrod's sauce...awesome!)

                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                Hey, I just ate at Jot 'Em Down a couple of weeks ago and I do admit, it is great. If you like Jot, You'll love Zeb Dean's (Called just Zeb's) on the other side of Danielsville. Real North Carolina style BBQ. Vinegar and pepper based sauce in a bottle on the table. Meat served naked (as it should be). Their stew is one of the most distinctive flavored stews I have ever had. I have eaten stew all across GA-TN-NC and SC and Zeb's still is my favorite. Zeb's stew is the traditional "first grown up food" for my children! GOOD STUFF!!!

                                                By the way; Texas Barbecue BITES!!! Tried that at six different locations and hated every one!

                                                1. re: GoBigC

                                                  Texas Barbecue as in barbecue from the state of Texas or is that the name of some chain? Because if you mean from all over the state of Texas, where have you gone? Have you tried any of the offerings in Lockhart?

                                                  1. re: GoBigC

                                                    I agree with you. I am from Indiana and have been all across the country because of being in the Military. My husband is from Athens and when we moved there, that was when I experience the southern style BBQ from Athens. Loved Jot Em Down, but Zeb's is the best. I live in Indiana and I wish that I could go there right now. My favorite is the Brunswick Stew, mmmmmmmmmmm, oh yum. I want that recipe for my own personal use. I could eat it every day.
                                                    Charlie Williams isn't there anymore. We moved from Athens in June of 2009 and not many good BBQ places except Zeb's. The best all around.

                                      2. Big fan of the newly opened Jimmy's on Lumpkin. The pulled pork is the best as far as the meat goes. The greens are really, really good, too. Organic pig, and most of the vegetables are too, some of them grown by the owner or the chef.

                                        They don't seem to be getting the business they deserve. I hope they stay open because, 1. they're good, and 2. they deliver to my neighborhood.

                                        1. Does anyone remember the name of a place that was on Broad st (between downtown and milledge) as late as 1996? If I heard correctly the owner was shot (and killed) in the parking lot - and both locations (there was another one out jefferson road) shut down soon after. I always liked their barbecue a lot but can't remember the name of the place.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: artybastard

                                            That was the Spring House Barbecue which was where Peaches is now I believe. Very fine BBQ. Major tragedy when Anthony Lee Dye the owner was shot and killed. Murder is unsolved. Here is a GBI link: http://www.ganet.state.ga.us/gbi/homi...

                                            1. re: gashrink

                                              Spring House was ok, but not that great. Sadly Athens has traditionally not been a real barbecue town (like lots of North Georgia towns). It is however, improving.

                                              1. re: Dax

                                                Dye's death was a tragedy whether you loved his Barbecue or not. I did like his cue. It was smoked out back and nicely sauced but more than that I like the family friendly feel of his restaurants. He has been missed.

                                                1. re: gashrink

                                                  um ok, I was only talking about the barbecue not his death. I was still living in Athens when he was killed.

                                                  1. re: Dax

                                                    SPRING HOUSE That's it... thanks yall. I like BBQ quite a bit but certainly wouldn't call myself a connoisseur. That being said, I thought that while the Spring House may not have been the best I've had, I thought it was among the best (I've had - shrug). I remember the beans as being great and having huge chunks of meat in them. deep fried rustic chunks of potato. decent sauces and authentic - unrefined barbecue... plus I only lived a couple of blocks away on meigs st so it was easy to get to. At the time, it seems like it was pretty much either that or sonny's so. Spring house, yes.

                                                    1. re: artybastard

                                                      Smokin Po-Boys in Winder (20 minutes from Athens) is really good. Ate their smoked chicken last night and I can say it was the best smoked barbecue chicken I have ever had. Their pork is top notch as well, within my top 5 of all time. Haven't had a chance to eat their ribs yet. They had a beef brisket special last week. OH BOY was it good!

                                                      1. re: Modawg1991

                                                        Po Boy's is indeed great. It's on my top 5 as well. Their pulled pork is my favorite. And have you tried the fried pies they sell at the register? Man, oh man are they good.

                                                        I've found the ribs hit or miss though. I've had truly great ones there and really dry ones.

                                                        For the life of me, I can't figure out why the place is always empty yet Shane's Rib Shack is always packed. Whatever, their loss!

                                          2. The best 'que near Athens is a short drive away. Madison, GA.

                                            Here's the address. Family run---really great!

                                            Crowe's Open Air Bar-B-Que

                                            1320 Eatonton Rd
                                            Madison, GA 30650
                                            (706) 342-7002‎

                                            1. I agree with the posts about Jot Em Down, great place. Don't miss The Butt Hut on Baxter much better than most of the places listed, and I've tried all mentioned that are still around.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: ahwinters

                                                This is quite an old thread but always appreciate an update. I like Butt Hutt too. I'll move this thread to the Southeast board now.

                                                1. re: Dax

                                                  Yes, there have been many decent BBQ places in Athens over the years, but presently I'd say that Butt Hutt is the best in town by some margin - it's even better than Jot Em Down!

                                                  1. re: MarieLetsEat

                                                    Beautiful discussion of bbq and smoke in Athens. Chime me in on Jot 'Em Down. Loved it.

                                                    1. re: hlamart

                                                      Here are my updates to BBQ in the Classic City...

                                                      Harry's Pig Shop is my new fav - it has a touch of of Nouvelle BBQ (Fried Pork and Scallion Won Tons are little bombs of lovely greasy good) but the basics are solid. Pulled pork platter is yum with traditional sides like coleslaw, mac and cheese, hash, baked beans are a must - and (my fav) the green beans. The only down side is a less than inspiring location in a strip mall.

                                                      2425 Jefferson Road
                                                      Athens, GA 30607
                                                      (706) 612-9219

                                                      Jot Em Down continues with excellent food - but a new location

                                                      480 Macon Highway
                                                      Athens, GA 30606
                                                      (706) 549-2110

                                                      Harry's Pig Shop
                                                      2425 Jefferson Road, Athens, GA

                                                      1. re: Compton Jones

                                                        True about Harry's Pig Shop, it is in a decaying strip mall and the food is good.

                                                        Harry's Pig Shop
                                                        2425 Jefferson Road, Athens, GA

                                                2. re: ahwinters

                                                  Jot Em Down is great, but Zeb's is even greater, love that place and miss it very much. I'm living in Indiana and miss it very much.

                                                3. Pulaski Heights BBQ is my favorite. it's in boulevard area. it's like gourmet bbq sorta, but not snooty or anything. good pricing, good beer and wine selection, i think they have a full bar too. catfish and pork were my favorites, wife liked chicken. kids had fun too (mac&cheese).

                                                  owner smokes daily. they do catering too.