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Atlanta’s Best Barbecue

June 17, 2012 7:08 pm by: 14 Comments


Back in 2004, I posed a single question to an online forum of Atlanta foodies. That question was basically this, where the heck can I find good barbecue in Atlanta?

After reading the heated thread of responses, I finally came to the conclusion I feared most when posting the ominous question. There really wasn’t much in the way of worthy barbecue to be had, not back then anyway.

Living in Atlanta since the 70s, I could never understand how a self respecting southern city such as Atlanta could look the rest of the south in the eye without even sporting a single decent barbecue joint.

But recently, a flurry of killer barbecue joints have opened. And, when taking a closer look at who is doing it right, I can’t help but notice a family theme — mostly figuratively speaking — among the top players.

Anyway, and without further ado, here’s my list of Atlanta’s best barbecue joints — in no specific order.

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
1238 Dekalb Ave, Inman Park
Tel: 404.577.4030

It’s quite easy to pick out the family relation here, and as you can clearly see I am speaking in the literal sense with my family reference regarding this one. Most believe these rock ‘n’ roll twins (Jonathan and Justin Fox) from Forth Worth, Texas — once Earthlink computer geeks who honeymooned as barbecue caterers — put out the best barbecue in the city. And, for good reason. They pretty much do everything right, from brisket to ribs to pulled pork and crispy capped mac ‘n’ cheese, even their hearty version of Brunswick stew will make you stop and take notice of Texas. The brothers also have a creative side, which they flaunt on the specials board. Expect anything and everything — depending on the day — to be lifted from that smoker, including meatloaf, bologna and even pork belly.

Sam’s BBQ 1
4944 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
Tel: 770.977.3005

This hot barbecue joint was originally named Sam and Dave’s BBQ1. Owners Sam Huff and Dave Poe landed on the scene with sparks a flying, and a glowing AJC review sitting fresh and pretty on the wall. But years later, the marriage of these two barbecue geeks dissolved. They each took a restaurant. Sam took #1 leaving Dave with #2 over on whitlock, which he now appropriately calls Dave Poe’s BBQ (next on my list here). Pulled pork and ribs are real standouts along with that super creamy, insanely delicious mac ‘n cheese introduced by partner Dave Roberts. Recent expansion (two doors down) now allows for comfortable indoor dine-in visits. Keep reading to see more offspring of this killer barbecue joint. This one is like the tall sturdy branch of a whose who of barbecue family tree.

Dave Poe’s BBQ
660 Whitlock Avenue SW, Marietta
Tel: 770.792.2272

This one was originally called Sam & Dave’s BBQ2, but a separation of partners gave this restaurant to the Dave (officially known as Dave Poe) in Sam & Dave’s. Try to keep the names straight, it gets rather difficult for me as another Dave and different offspring have slipped out from behind the smoke of this hot concept to set in motion their own careers in barbecue — helping to create a recent flurry of world-class barbecue around town. More on that later. As for this one, nothing really changed but the name. All the wholesome goodness you’ve grown to love at Sam & Dave’s, including that ridiculously tasty mac ‘n’ cheese they’ve become so famous for, is still to be had at Dave Poe’s BBQ. And, that’s a good thing.

Community Q
1361 Clairmont Road, Decatur
Tel: 404.633.2080

Here’s where all those other Daves I mentioned start coming into play. After spending many years Sam & Dave’s, Dave Roberts set out on his own by opening Community Q near Emory in Decatur. And, he quickly built himself a nice little reputation among the slow smoked meat aficionados. Many, myself included, believe that Community Q and Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q are a head above the others. Perfectly cooked brisket, succulent ribs and pulled pork at this joint are all as good as you’ll find anywhere in the city, and that giant fork tender beef rib just melts in your mouth. It’s as if he took everything he learned under Sam & Dave and took it to a whole new level, with the exception of that crazy delicious mac ‘n’ cheese, which Roberts didn’t change a thing. It was Roberts’ mother’s recipe after all. Really love the use of some local ingredients in menu items like soups of the day.

Grand Champion BBQ
4401 Shallowford Rd #168, Roswell
Tel: 770.587.4227

Co-owner Robert Owens is another product of the Sam & Dave’s marriage. A partnership that has resulted in four of our city’s current top seven barbecue joints, according to my taste. That being said, I believe this newbie of the four has the most tweaking still to do, but in defense of Owens and Grand Champion BBQ, they are the newest player in town. Ribs have been the best and most consistent menu item in the house thus far — and, Owens wisely seems to be serving that same Dave Roberts’ highly addictive mac ‘n’ cheese, but with the addition of smoked gouda. This place is good — sometimes even very good — but has yet to find that stride all the great ones seem to have found.

Swallow at The Hollow
1072 Green Street, Roswell
Tel: 678.352.1975

Before Sam & Dave’s BBQ1. Long before Community Q. And, even Before Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q was a bluesy barbecue barn in Roswell called Swallow at The Hollow. A quirky guy by the name of Bill Greenwood of Greenwood’s restaurant teamed up with Paul Doster (who acted as chef and managing partner) to open this bbq joint directly across the beautiful, oak-shaded street from Greenwood’s. It was by far the best of the best our city had to offer before heavy hitters such as Fox Bros. and Sam & Dave’s BBQ1. I’d still confidently put this one in my Top 5 Atlanta BBQ spots. Ever notice how certain items separates the great ‘cue joints from the good ones. Those items here are succulent sweet ribs with perfect bark and seriously amazing homemade Texas toast. Oh my, the Texas toast. Sides are all made from scratch daily, nothing from a can. Pulled pork arrives chopped or sliced (not pulled) — and, as good as it is by itself, anything wearing that Texas toast is certain to be a hit. No joke, this stuff is that good.

13700 Highway 9 North, Alpharetta
Tel: 770.667.0089

Co-owner Paul Doster (that chef looking guy from Swallow at The Hollow) broke away from his partnership with Bill Greenwood to start ‘Cue in Alpharetta. It was an instant hit with the locals — no surprise there. Though some things are different than Swallow at The Hollow, Doster brings the same philosophy to his new gig along with those little nuances that made Swallow at The Hollow so great, touches like homemade breads and killer ribs, that same mac ‘n’ cheese and fresh veggies. And, of course, all sides are made from scratch. The major difference I detect here at ‘Cue from Swallow at The Hollow is that everything tastes a little sweeter and the barbecue sauce is a tad mustardy. Basically, if you like Swallow at The Hollow you’ll like this one.

Notable Exclusion
I know what many of you are thinking. “He forgot to add Heirloom Market BBQ (2243 Akers Mill Rd. Atlanta, Tel:770.612.2502) to his list.”

No, I didn’t have a brain fart this time. It’s not listed because my two meals at this popular little joint along the Chattahoochie River were anything but spectacular. In fact, one meal was inexcusably inedible.

BBQ blog sites worth following:
BBQ Geek
The purist of all local barbecue sites. You will find nothing but barbecue reviews and things that pertain to cured and smoked meats. My biggest complaint here is that his postings seem to have suddenly stopped since fall of last year. Still, this site is a great source for those seeking killer ‘cue in the Atlanta metro and the entire southeast.

Marie, Let’s Eat
The author is a self proclaimed barbecue fanatic and
has more barbecue reviews than I’ve ever seen on any of the local sites. Reader beware, this guy for reasons unknown branches out into more than just barbecue. Do yourself a favor and skip the many ramblings about chain restaurants and flashy media dinner excursions.

Atlanta’s Best Barbecue Reviewed by on . Back in 2004, I posed a single question to an online forum of Atlanta foodies. That question was basically this, where the heck can I find good barbecue in Atla Back in 2004, I posed a single question to an online forum of Atlanta foodies. That question was basically this, where the heck can I find good barbecue in Atla Rating: 0

Comments (14)

  • matt

    Have you tried Heirloom Market BBQ?

  • Tom Maicon

    Yes, I was served two inedible meals at Heirloom Market BBQ, none of which had contained the slightest hint of smoke. Brisket was so tough and bland it is how I imagine a tire to taste. In the paper version of this article I included why I left out Heirloom Market BBQ so I’ve added that clip here along with 2 cool bar-b-q sites to follow.

  • Bob

    Not a fan of Daddy D’z or DBA BBQ????

  • Tom Maicon

    Daddy DZ is okay (certainly not great) and I didn’t find anything about DBA BBQ that was fantastic.

  • Cliff Hanger

    Agree 100 percent with the restaurant list. Disagree with the blog list. Don’t know the dude from Adam, but his blog blows away the two you listed–at least for barbecue

    The other one is better for crappy chains though.

  • Brent Jackson

    Mike’s Bone Lick BBQ? He was doing Monday nights at P’Cheen and is close to opening his own restaurant. So good

  • Tom Maicon

    Brent, I can’t wait until he opens I believe his place will be great.

  • artyc

    Swallow in the hollow sure went down hill. the portions are not the same and do not order sliced pork all you get is fatty pork. the waiter said not to order
    sliced pork just chopped pork which has no taste, Cue is so much better.

  • Sean Wood

    Had Fox Bros for lunch today. They are hands down the best in Atlanta.

  • NomNomNomATL

    How do you not even mention Harolds?

  • Dustin Moody

    Not sure how you include Swallow and Cue on this list. Unreal. Agree with all of the others. Tough to see Heirloom so inconsistent.

    Check out my GA BBQ blog here if ever interested:

  • Grant at Marie, Let's Eat!

    Tom, first you tease me because I don’t know anything about sushi. So I go to a media event at R Rice to learn, and now you tease me for going to media events. I feel like I can’t win for losing.

    I am concerned that we have a perception as being a chain-heavy blog, when those actually comprise only about 9% of our posts, and many of those are about chains with no presence in the Atlanta market, like In-n-Out, Petros, Whataburger and Shipley’s Do-Nuts, along with Atlanta-based chains like the Varsity and Taqueria del Sol. True, Marie and I enjoy the opportunity to socialize with other writers and learn more about the industry when we attend large media events, but our focus is always going to be on independent businesses and the stories their owners have to share. I appreciate the chance to clarify that point, and welcome the new readers that your link has brought us. Thank you.

  • Cliff Hanger

    Cue and SATH certainly belong among the big boys. Not as much smoke–true, but among the best beyond debate.

  • Big Ray

    Couldn’t agree more on Heirloom, two dissapointing trips myself.

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