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"BBQ in Atlanta?" a Canadian asks

I'll be coming to Atlanta for a conference in a few months and am beginning to think of places to eat (I imagine this takes some serious research). Can someone offer a primer (with suggestions of places) about Atlanta dining, specifically is their a local BBQ speciality? Are there noteworthy places I should visit?

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  1. Fat Matt's Rib Shack is good in Atl. I know more about bbq in Chattanooga-- a very cool, smaller town if you have a chance to get there (1.5 hrs north). Way Crazy's is amazing for bbq. And the trip up Signal Mountain on the "W" road is an unexpected bit of topo in southern TN. I think pulled pork is the thing to get in the South. And brunswick stew and cobbler, of course.

    1. Despite the flood of recent posts to the contrary, Fatt Matt's Rib Shack is distinctly, unambiguously NOT good. How many times do we Atlanta hounds have to warn visitors away from this place?

      Check out this recent thread:

      4 Replies
      1. re: pastramiking

        Good grief. I didn't say it was amazing, but I hardly think it's NOT good. It's totally acceptable bbq, if you ask me. Why don't you suggest something better?

        1. re: Procrastibaker

          I think people go to Fat Matt's more for the "atmosphere" or maybe the nostalgia than the bbq. When the place is packed and a band is playing and you're having a beer on the porch, it can be fun and oddly charming. That said the pulled pork is very different from other local places (too much sauce and it seems to be shredded not chopped) and a lot of people don't like it. BBQ is not really Atlanta's thing.

          1. re: Procrastibaker

            I wholeheartely agree with Therese and amy elizabeth's posts below: Atlanta just isn't a BBQ town.

            But all my friends and family who visit from out of town want me to lead them to quality smoked pork, so I perfectly understand the nature of duckliver's quest.

            Fox Brothers BBQ (at Smith's Olde Bar) is probably the most consistent place for ribs and pulled pork inside I-285. I have my reservations about all three of these places, but Harold's, Rolling Bones and Daddy D'z are all preferable to Fat Matt's.

            1. re: Procrastibaker

              I haven't tried Fox Brothers yet, but my next door neighbor, who's a bit of a hound, wasn't that impressed. I need to try it and come to my own conclusion.

              The atmosphere is fairly clean/suburban, but I think Pig n Chik does very good meat most of the time (that's based on having it every 10 days or so over the past few months, between work and getting takeout). I recently had some brisket leftovers that someone ordered for a meeting at my office, and I was impressed with the beef too. Plus I really dig their potato salad.

              The other place several of us mention repeatedly is The Swallow at the Hollow in Roswell. Maybe the atmosphere is a bit Cracker-Barrel-country, but the Q is good, and the sides are the best.

          2. I think Daddy D'z has good que. Not a fancy place a t all but the que is good, especially the ribs.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbqme

              Second on the Daddy D'z recommendation. The place is kind of a dump, but the barbecue is the real thing. Many other urban/suburban restaurants have quit cooking exclusively over wood coals. Daddy D'z still does and you can taste the difference.

              The beer could be colder.

            2. A couple of implied assumptions in duckliver's original post:

              1. Finding good restaurants in Atlanta will be difficult.

              2. Atlanta's in the south, and the south is associated with bbq, so he/she might want to have bbq.

              I'll address the second one first. Excellent query re "local BBQ specialty", and the fact that there isn't one illustrates just exactly why you needn't bother eating bbq when you visit here: it wasn't part of the culture historically, and most of what you'll find in Atlanta is either not very good, pretty crappy, or just plain terrible. There are some exceptions, but since you're almost certainly staying downtown (for the conference) you're not going to happen across any of them. You are more likely to find good bbq at home in Canada.

              Assuming that you are, in fact, downtown for this conference, I'll return to the first assumption, that Atlanta might not have great food. In point of fact Atlanta's got lots of terrific restaurants, but very few of them are downtown (because very few people live right in downtown, as there's not much there apart from offices and convention hotels). The surrounding in-town neighborhoods have lots to offer, though.

              Give us an idea of your tastes, your budget (very important---you can drop some serious cash in upmarket restaurants here), your location (downtown, Buckhead, whatever), and your transportation options (some public transit here is good, some sucks) and we can make recommendations. Lots and lots of ethnic here, as many areas are virtually all recent immigrants.

              1. Fat Matts is not good BBQ. Instead, the Pig n Chik is a far better recommendation. The pork is especially moist and appropriately smokey. Likewise, the sauce selection is solid. You might also try The Brick Pit on P'tree Industrial inside 285 for solid BBQ. Repeat, Fat Matts is not good BBQ.

                1. When I lived in ATL, I found Dusty's on Briarcliff, near Emory to be far preferable to Fat Matt's. My problem is that I like BBQ but cannot tolerate pork or beef (a problem, I know). Dusty's had good chicken and BBQ wings.

                  I wish more people did BBQ fish, like Riskey's in Ft. Worth. Their smoked catfish was to die for.

                  1. Dusty's is pretty good bbq (and has the best brunswick stew in town), and certainly the best of the lot within a reasonable drive of my house, but as Loren3 suggests it's not worth a special trip.

                    1. Sam and Dave's has excellent baby back ribs, and, in my opinion, the best barbeque is Atlanta. Here is their website http://www.lostmountainbbq.com/index.... . I have been to both locations, and the place located at 660 Whitlock in Roswell has a better atmosphere... the other location is basically takeout.

                      Fat Matt's to me has way too much fat and gristle. Rolling Bones isn't bad but their sides leave much to be deisred. Pig N' Chik and Daddy D'z aren't bad, but I will stick with Sam and Dave's as the best.

                      1. Second the reccs for Swallow at the Hollow (Roswell) and/or Pig N Chik. Nice thing about the Swallow is that Greenwoods, the restaurant across the street (Green St) is owned by the same couple and has wonderful Southern cooking and huge portions--their pies are awesome. Best one-two restaurant combo you'll find for miles around.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KyMikey

                          Follow KyMikey.

                          He/she the right idea unless you want to go underground with GA BBQ.

                          1. re: KyMikey

                            Swallow ribs taste mostly of sauce, and their sauce is a bit too sweet for my taste. Awesome little place, lots of fun, but I was underwhelmed. Darn good, far from great.

                          2. Any thoughts on Shane's in Marietta? Went by there yesterday, but didn't feel like BBQ. I've heard good things, but never been there...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: atlantanative

                              Shane's is a Raving Brands chain. Also: not good.

                            2. Second that.

                              The next time someone who hasn't done any research floats a query about BBQ in Atlanta, let's just point them to this thread and be done with it.

                              1. My familiarity is primarily in the northwest metro area. Everyone has opinions - here are mine. Sam and Dave's BBQ 1 on Lower Roswell and Sam and Dave's BBQ 2 on Whitlock - both in Marietta have the best brisket I have found in Georgia. Their ribs, pork and chicken are very good - but the beef is better. They have just added sausage to the menu, but I have yet to try it. Their sides are homemade and generally very good. Swallow at the Hollow on Green Street in Roswell has already been mentioned - as it should be. They have very good ribs and sides. They also have live music on the weekends. KC Pit BBQ in Sandy Springs does a very good job with brisket, burnt ends, ribs, chopped pork and sides. The Rib Ranch on Canton Hwy (Hwy 5) in Marietta does a good job with brisket, pork, turkey and sausage. Champs BBQ on South Cobb Drive just north of Windy Hill Road does a very good job with brisket and pork. Their onion casserole is an different and tasty side dish. Two blocks from Champs on Windy Hill Road is Old South BBQ. Their 30 year runs guarantees they are doing something right. My wife enjoys their chopped pork more than I, but it is good. Slope's BBQ has five locations. I don't care for Woodstock, even though it is the closest to my home. Roswell and Sandy Springs are both quite good. I generally get a rib special with black eyed peas and fried okra. If I am particularly hungry, I will save room (find room) for blackberry cobbler. Rolling Bones on Edgewood, near downtown Atlanta, is a place I have only been once. I had a brisket sandwich with collard greens and was impressed. A good friend who has been there several times enjoys the chopped pork (he's a Georgia native). Williamson Brothers BBQ on Roswell Street between US 41 and I-285 is very popular. I had never enjoyed it until someone on one of the message boards (Chowhound or AtlantaCuisine probably) suggested I try the ribs. They were right. Williamson's ribs are much better than their chopped pork. Two Brothers BBQ in Ball Ground is very good and has a bit more character than those places closer to Atlanta. We recently visited Beetle's BBQ in Woodstock for the first time.
                                They had live music and the chopped pork my wife ordered pleased her. I felt my ribs, while tasty, were out of line price wise with the rest of the menu.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Milt

                                  I'm going to second BBQ-1 on Lower Roswell. It's right across from our office, and we order Q at least once per week. Best brisket I've ever had that wasn't smoked at my house. Sides are excellent. They have a more texas sweet bbq sauce and a north carolina type vinegar-y sauce, both of which are pretty good, but I'd say the meat stands out more than the sauce, which I find refreshing. I actually barely use the sauce these days, the meat is that tender and flavorful. I normally go for brisket, but I've tried everything except the sausage and you really can't go wrong with anything you choose. Sides are great, I love their BBQ Beans. Their sweet tea isn't good though, that's the only downside.

                                  If you're looking for a more commercial place, Williamson Bros. BBQ would probably work. They have great sauce, but most of the meat tends to be sub-par. They have all-you-can-eat pork plates for less than ten bucks at lunch, so if you're one to like volume over quality that would work. It's good Q for the most part, just doesn't taste like good home-smoked pit BBQ. I'd go BBQ-1 though.

                                2. In the interest of Chowhounding, today I stopped in Bennett's, which replaced my BBQ-dive-fave Benny's at Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry. It's my sad duty to report that the new place looks a lot nicer, but the Q just ain't there. It's a limited sampling upon which to base judgement, but here goes.

                                  My pulled pork sandwich just wasn't smoky at all. I searched for smoke ring in the strands of meat and didn't see any. The sauce was reminiscent of the gallon bottles of Cattleman's that Sysco sells (i.e. it probably was, not that that's the worst sauce on the planet, just not original). The collards had potential but I got my daily sodium intake from the 3-4 bites I was able to put away.

                                  For some, the multiple flat screen TVs showing your choice of ESPN or Fox News might make up for the food. Others would take delight in the beer taps, featuring Bud, Bud Light, and Michelob Amber Bock.

                                  Yeah, I probably won't be going back.

                                  I asked the cashier if they'd inherited the smoker from the old place, at which he scoffed. I even drove around back and saw that there was a Kamado of some sort within their fence. But they must not be using it.

                                  Oh well, my memories of cheap, excellent Q, nuclear or sweet sauce, and dirty linoleum have died hard.

                                  Milt- had lunch at Nik's across the street from Sam & Dave's 2 last week (decent, limited Greek). Could feel the Q pulling at me, but client choice, you know. Next time.

                                  1. What about Harold's? That brings back memories....

                                    Here's a link to a review: http://www.southernfoodways.com/fea_h...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cheesemonger

                                      It's on my list. If you haven't found it yet, check the thread out where hit lots of other places around town.

                                      1. re: ted

                                        I've been to Harolds (many times as a kid)- I just didn't see it in this thread, so I wanted to pop it in here.

                                    2. I just came back from Atlanta and I have to agree that Fat Matt's wasn't the best bbq that I've had...and I'm from NYC! I've had better ribs elsewhere. But the fish fry shack next to Fat Matt's had some tasty catfish. The staff and service were both as friendly as they come down south, too.