Atlanta Has A Lot, But How About BarbecueMonday, February 10, 2014
I lived in Atlanta one summer during college (in Norcross, just off Jimmy Carter Blvd) and while my friends and I ate well -- quality/variety of international cuisine in Atlanta is pretty fabulous -- I can say that we never had Atlanta barbecue. And for all the trips we've made to Atlanta post-college, never even thought about it. Generally, Atlanta and barbecue just isn't thought of as a 'thing' unlike Cincinnati and chili, Nashville and hot chicken, Memphis and...well...barbecue.
This summer, Atlanta Magazine did a feature on the best barbecue in the city, and we decided to pick one. But not the one that got #1 on the list. Heirloom Market was lauded for its "spicy Korean pork sandwich. Rib meat marinates in gochujang—a sweet, fermented chile paste that doesn’t scorch the taste buds...piled onto a domed potato bun, crowned with a handful of kimchi coleslaw, and finished with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and a few wisps of sliced scallion" and while that sounds interesting and obviously tastes pretty terrific, I wanted to go with something not so...ongepotchket. Just meat rubbed with salt and pepper, pulled from, say, a hickory-fired pit that it's been tended to low/slow for at least fourteen, eighteen hours, whatever -- if you're Roy Perez at Kreuz maybe you can do it faster because you're doing it hotter and gracious knows he's got it down -- but in any case, simpler is golden and that's what we were looking for.
So we went to Fox Bros. Hmmmm.
Between the four of us, there were ribs, brisket, wings, Frito chili pie, collards, Brunswick stew, and something called Fox-a-roni which was their chili over mac-and-cheese (which we got as a novelty and pretty sure they devised originally as some kind of post-inebriation cure-all). '
Ribs? Just okay. Brisket? Good but crazy-salty. Wings (which we wouldn't have ordered had not they come highly recommended)? Very, very good. Fox-a-Roni? Meh. Frito chili pie? Could have used more chili. Collards? Blissfully not from a can and very good. And the Brunswick stew was alright. Gotta have Brunswick stew when it's cool outside.
So, maybe we'll keep this going and try another barbecue place next time. Not expecting another life-altering experience like we have in Lockhart, but it would be fun to see what else Atlanta has barbecue-wise. And one day when not feeling all purist-y, we'll go see what the marriage of Korean and Southern tastes like at Heirloom.
Isn't it reflective, though, of the barbecue scene in Atlanta when even Atlanta Magazine has on its top ten list one establishment that has inconsistencies such that they're having to hype the soup and salad there? Another at which the writers ask the owner to start 'paying closer attention'? #8 has withered pork, and advising customers at #9 to have to ask that the meat be fresh, as the practice is to wrap in plastic, which causes 'steam to mush' the texture of the meat?
Texas Monthly doesn't have those problems.
Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's has a new book coming out in May: Fire and Smoke: A Pitmaster's Secrets