HOW FOUR OF BUCKHEAD’S BEST BARBECUE RESTAURANTS STACK UP…

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SMOKEBELLY

SMOKEBELLY BBQ

SMOKEBELLY BBQ

Executive chef – Nagib Sued, who hails from Pura Vida and Big Tex Decatur.

Combo plate and price – Two-meat combo plates are served with choice of two sides and Texas toast for $16.25; three and four-meat combo plates also available for $19.75 and $22.75, respectively.

Varieties of meats – Six meat options: sliced smoked turkey, barbecue chicken, smoked pulled pork, smoked sausage, beef brisket (chopped or sliced), and baby back ribs; plus salmon, catfish and a veggie plate.

How do you cook your meats? The barbecue is cooked fresh every day, and it’s no easy feat. The pork takes 14 hours, brisket 12 hours and ribs 2 hours.

Sourcing practices – Local sourcing is a priority—they source beef and pork from Buckhead Beef and chicken from Springer Mountain Farms in North Georgia.

Barbecue style, according to the chef – “We do Southern barbecue with influences from regions throughout the South,” Sued explains. “We use a combination of woods and rubs that are uniquely our own.”

What makes their menu different – Smokebelly is easily the most chef-driven barbecue restaurant on this list. Not only does their menu include a “tapas” section with unconventional dishes like lettuce wraps, fried pickled okra, disco fries and mac-and-cheese skillets, but they also offer modern versions of classic sides (think sweet corn and edamame succotash and bourbon sweet potato soufflé; innovative sandwiches, like the smoked salmon club and a pimento cheese BLT; and an extensive entrée salad menu. Dish chef is most proud of: The Pressed Banh Mi.

Sauces – Chef Sued makes seven different barbecue sauces (sweet, savory, spicy, Alabama white, Carolina Red, Carolina Gold and Cherry Cola). Mixing and matching is encouraged.

Ambiance and service – This is a true full-service restaurant in a gorgeous setting. Enjoy live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a bustling cocktail bar with an extensive craft beer and wine menu. Smokebelly feels more like a trendy neighborhood restaurant than your average roadside barbecue stand.

Average cost of dinner for 2 – Roughly $50 for two people.

smokebellybbq.com


521 KITCHEN & QUE

521 KITCHEN & QUE

521 KITCHEN & QUE

Executive chef – Drew Kirkland, who hails from Kevin Rathbun Steak, Rathbun’s, Levy Restaurants and PGA National Resort.

Combo plate and price – There’s only one combo plate available: a two-meat combo served with choice of two sides for $14.95. chicken, ½ chickens, pork spare ribs and wings.

How do you cook your meats? Meat is smoked every day in small batches (read: when they run out, that’s it). The brisket takes 12 hours, pork 10 hours and ribs 4 hours

Sourcing practices – Working with high-quality proteins is key—they use only Certified Angus Beef, hormone-free chicken from Mar-Jac Poultry in Georgia and pork from North Carolina farms, like Asgard Farm. They also use preservative-free bread from Atlanta’s H&F Bread Co. for their buns.

Barbecue style, according to the chef – “We don’t follow any specific [regional style of barbecue], like Memphis, Kansas City or Texas; we serve eclectic barbecue and make what the people in Georgia like,” Kirkland says.

What makes their menu different – 521 is also more chef-driven than your standard barbecue restaurant, plus they also cater to many types of palates. Their menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free options, like housemade black eyed pea burgers and fancy grilled cheese sammies; and many non-smoked entrées, like fried chicken, braised brisket and citrus roasted chicken. You’ll also find more inventive side dishes here— there are 10 options, each with their own unique twist, like collards braised in Coca-Cola, a refreshing kale slaw and crispy garlic-spiked green beans—a handful of entrée salads and fun appetizers, like pimento cheese deviled eggs. Dish chef is most proud of: Smoked Brisket.

Sauces – Chef Kirkland makes two tomato-based sauces (one sweet and one spicy), plus a housemade hot sauce and pepper vinegar. We found their sauces to be more extreme than others on this list—either incredibly sweet or extraordinarily spicy.

Ambiance and service – 521 falls somewhere in between Smokebelly and the other two spots. They offer counter-service during lunch and full-service in the evenings, but the decor is a bit more bare-bones and casual. 521 offers beer and wine, and supports local breweries like Sweetwater and Second Self Beer Company.

Average cost of dinner for 2 – Roughly $25 for two people.

521kitchenandque.com


THE GREATER GOOD

THE GREATER GOOD

THE GREATER GOOD

Executive chef – Bill Wrench, a restaurant industry vet for nearly 40 years, and his father-in-law Don Cobbs.

Combo plate and price – There’s only one combo plate available: a two-meat combo served with choice of two sides for $14.95. chicken, ½ chickens, pork spare ribs and wings.

Varieties of meats – Six meat options: smoked chicken wings, pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked chicken, brisket (chopped or sliced) and baby back ribs.

How do you cook your meats?Every day, fresh barbecue is made, and the cooking time isn’t quick. Pork and brisket take 13 hours, while chicken and ribs take up to 4 hours.

Sourcing practices – The Greater Good sources most of their proteins from Sysco, the world’s largest broadline food distributor. Farms include Butcher Block (Colorado) and Smithfield (Virginia), the world’s largest pork producer and processor.

Barbecue style, according to the chef – “We incorporate Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina and Texas style barbecue in our restaurant,” Wrench says.

What makes their menu different – Like all the restaurants here, The Greater Good makes every single dish from scratch daily, including their stocks, sauces and rubs. You can truly taste the difference in quality. Their menu skews more traditional, though no less delicious. Classics shine, from fried pickles and mac and cheese to flavorful baked beans and potato salad. Dish chef is most proud of: Brunswick Stew.

Sauces – Wrench offers five different original sauces and rubs, each meant to be paired with a specific meat. The house sauce is tomato-based with molasses and is a little sweet and spicy. There’s also a sweet sauce, a “hot” tomato-based sauce laced with habañero, a mustard-heavy, vinegar-based Carolina sauce and a tangy Kansas City-style tomato-based sauce.

Ambiance and service – While the Greater Good is a full-service restaurant (there’s a counter for takeout). It’s a small, dark space reminiscent of old-school roadside barbecue shacks with a nice patio perfect for warmer weather. Expect checkered tablecloths and friendly servers. Wine and beer, including local craft brews, are offered.

Average cost of dinner for 2 – Roughly $25 for two people.

greatergoodbbq.com


FAT MATT’S RIB SHACK

FAT MATT’S RIB SHACK

FAT MATT’S RIB SHACK

Executive chef – No chef, but Eddie Smith, who hails from Hamburger Hamlet, the Pleasant Peasant and Vickery’s, is the main cook.

Combo plate and price – There’s only one combo plate available, which includes 1/4 slab of ribs with 1/4 smoked chicken, for $9.95. Sides are not included, but you will get a slice of white bread.

Varieties of meats – Three meat options: ribs, smoked chicken and chopped pork.

How do you cook your meats? Expect fresh barbecue seven days a week here. The pork takes 8 hours, the ribs 3 hours and the chicken 2 hours.

Sourcing practices – All of the meats are sourced from local suppliers, like Mar-Jac Poultry (Gainesville) and Country Ranch Foods pork (Marietta).

Barbecue style, according to the chef – “If I had to pick a style, I’d say somewhere in the Delta area of Mississippi,” says owner Matt Harper.

What makes their menu different – Fat Matt’s is undoubtedly the most traditional barbecue restaurant on this list. Their menu is short and sweet, but the few items they offer, they do incredibly well. Some might argue they are the best—in fact, they have the most and highest Yelp reviews on the list. They’ve also been around the longest and have long been considered an institution in Atlanta. Dish chef is most proud of: Ribs.

Sauces – Fat Matt’s offers only one sauce, and they make 50 gallons of it per day. It’s sweet at the start, with a little heat as it goes down.

Ambiance and service – Fat Matt’s is a no-frills, classic barbecue spot with counter-service only (though your food is delivered to your table). This feels like the most authentic barbecue restaurant. With live blues nightly, it’s lively and fun. No fuss; this is a beer-only spot. Order by the bottle, or pitchers are also available.

Average cost of dinner for 2 – Just shy of $25 for two people.

fatmattsribshack.com

BY: Kate Parham Kordsmeier