Spoiler alert: Atlantans like barbecue. So, you can find a bunch of restaurants that serve it here, and serve it to your liking. Your job, reader, is to know exactly what kind of barbecue you prefer and go from there. Do you like vinegar-based sauces, mustard-based sauces, thick-tomato sauces? Do you prefer Kentucky barbecue, Texas barbecue, Tennessee barbecue or East Carolina barbecue?
Yes, Atlanta's got a string of hidden, run-down shacks producing moist, smoked barbecue. But then we also have several, newer, sit-down spots that are family-friendly in bustling, popular neighborhoods. If you're a fan of the latter, you'll be a fan of the large, immensely popular Texas-style barbecue joint, Fox Bros Bar-B-Q (our top pick) whose bustling space will seat—and generously feed—a big group of heavy eaters. If you just want to grab some food to go, check out the hidden gem, Miss Betty's House of Ribs in East Atlanta Village. This humble trailer dishes out incredible smoked meats and indulgent sides to match.
Ah, yes, and those sides... one must not forget creamy macaroni and cheese, sweet baked beans, spicy collards, fluffy cornbread, soul-warming Brunswick stew. They don't just complement the meal, good sides make the meal.
Read on for a few of our top 10 places for BBQ in Atlanta
10 Ms. Betty's House of Ribs
Celebrity chefs and foodie hype is far removed from this humble East Atlanta Village barbecue joint. Housed within an unsuspecting trailer with a smoker in the back, Ms. Betty keeps her menu of mouth-watering eats to a minimum: ribs or smoked chicken. Tantalizing aromas surround the place and stick with you when you leave. Go with the ribs or the rib tips. The mustard sauce makes for a nice complement to the smoky meats, while the Boss Sauce leans on the sweeter side (we suggest going with mustard). Get mac-n-cheese and collards on the side and take your feast to-go. (404-243-8484)
9 Swallow at the Hollow
Housed in a rustic lodge with a tin roof and a covered front porch, this Roswell eatery is a lively candidate for one of the area's top barbecue spots. Throw back some cold beer and dig into a platter of pulled pork or beef brisket, accompanied by an order of macaroni and cheese, fried green tomatoes and three-bean baked beans. Meats are pit-smoked over hickory and fruitwood, creating a flavorful cue. Sides leans toward fresh and locally grown. The restaurant's onsite store sells produce, herbs and canned goods,so you can take the experience home with you. They also offer an extensive catering and to-go selection, perfect for parties, and have their own event facility (a favorite for weddings) next door. (678-352-1975)
8 Zeigler's BBQ
Zeigler's BBQ and Catering company is one of the lesser known barbecue restaurants in Atlanta, but they do quite a good catering business for both corporate and private events (which may be how you found out about them if you've already tried it).
Zeigler's has won various awards over the past few years, including a State of Georgia Reserve Grand Championship in 2007. The simple pulled pork is some of the best in the city and is definitely the way to go here.
They also have terrific sides. Whether you love potato salad, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw or baked beans, they are all wonderful sides to complement your meat of choice. ((770) 529-5227)
7 Big Shanty Barbeque
True to its namesake, Kennesaw's family-owned barbecue joint is indeed located within a shanty. For a taste of the best the restaurant has to offer, order Steve's Sampler. This comes with ribs, brisket, sausage and pork. Notable sides are the potato salad and beans, which spend time in the smoker, taking on the smokey flavor. It takes time for the meat to reach the savory succulence that Big Shanty Barbeque is known for. The meat is smoked for 13 hours and retains incredible juiciness and flavor. The restaurant also caters events in the area. If you're planning on feeding a big group, you may want to consider ordering one of the smoked meat selections to go (like the 12-to-13 pound whole smoked turkey). (770-499-7444)
6 D.B.A. Barbecue
This bar/restaurant fills its menu with no-fuss plates like barbecue and burgers along with moonshine. The eatery is an easy-going place with TVs broadcasting sports games and a pretty bar.
Spicy boiled peanuts, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes are some of the other Southern starters you can find at DBA. But the bacon-wrapped shrimp is a must order. The best option for a hungry group is the sampler platter ($40) which comes your choice of four sides and a large portion of all meats: beef brisket, smoked turkey, pulled chicken, pulled pork, wings, spare ribs and baby back ribs. You better have at least four people with you if you're planning on going for it! (4042495000)
5 Daddy D'z
Yes, the place looks like a dump. But don't be dissuaded by it--the facade is part of its charm. Grab a seat and have your pick of gluttonous BBQ. For an appetizer, try the barbecue wraps, meat wrapped in crispy dough. Fried mushrooms, wings, chicken tenders, and shrimp comprise of some of the other appetizer choices. Order ribs by the slabs, barbeque plates with sides, or desserts. Cheesecake, cobbler, or cakes are available. For a taste of the South, try the shrimp and grits. On the weekends, the place attracts live blues bands. Check it out for a soulful show. (404-222-0206)
4 Community Q BBQ
Decatur's Community Q has customers lined up for their pulled pork, meaty ribs and mac 'n cheese. Fans love the pork with its smokey flavor and the meaty, slow-cooked brisket. The ribs are meaty, juicy and full of flavor and really don't need the help of the two sauces found on the table: sweet and vinegar based.
Note that there is no table service here. Diners must place their order at the counter. Your food will be brought to you. It is almost important to note that the restaurant closes super early both during the week and on weekends, so enjoy your feasting early. ((404) 633-2080)
3 Sweet Auburn
Sweet Auburn Barbecue makes a home nestled among the permanent vendors at Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Edgewood and at its newly opened brick-and-mortar location in the Poncey Highlands (656 N. Highland). Meats are slow-cooked over hickory and apple wood and boast a distinct flavor. Go for traditional meat plates and sandwiches with entrees like the Memphis baby back ribs or the Sweet Auburn barbecue plate (which includes options of pulled pork, chicken or brisket with two sides.) For more inventive options order the coconut lemongrass pork spare ribs or the Korean-style short rib sandwich. The restaurant also has a food truck. (404.589.9722)
2 Heirloom Market
Heirloom Market packs them in during lunchtime. Don't let the crowd scare you away. There's excellent Korean-style barbecue in store. Despite the lackluster facade, greatness awaits you within. The Korean barbecue brisket and pork sandwiches are the things to get, though the pulled pork and ribs are solid, too. Go-to sides include collards, Brunswick stew and the Korean-spiced sweet potatoes.
Even though the line is long, they get orders out quickly.
Heirloom Market only has one actual table for seating, right in the middle of restaurant. The remaining seating consists of about 10-to-12 bar stools. You'd do best ordering your food to go. (770-612-2502)
1 Fox Bros BBQ
Traditional Texas-style barbecue reins at this Candler Park eatery, located off of Dekalb Avenue. It's hard to miss. It's a huge space that's very visible from the road--as is the crowd.
It's always busy and always delicious. Portions are gigantic, so don't worry about leaving hungry. In terms of rankings, it's hard to beat this place. They get the food right, but the vibe and service are spot-on, too.
Pulled pork and brisket are crowd-pleasers, as is the mac and cheese, Brunswick stew and St. Louis-style ribs. Additional menu items included smoked chicken and an adventurous "burger" (chopped brisket topped with bacon, tomato, red onion, pickles, melted pimento cheese and jalapeno mayo). ((404) 577-4030)
About Kelly Skinner
Kelly Skinner comes to Atlanta by way of sunny coastal city, Pensacola, FL. A lover of all things food, music and travel, Skinner found her perfect match in Atlanta in the food-centric hub of Decatur.
A full-time freelance writer and editor, Skinner's byline has appeared in a range of publications including Paste, The Atlantan, Jezebel, Redbook, South and Living Intown.
When she's not writing, editing and exploring Atlanta for the best places to eat, drink and play, Skinner loves doing yoga, running with her dog in Piedmont Park and scouring book stores and record shops for hidden treasures.
Read more about Kelly Skinner here.
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