Let’s Review Some Barbecue

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

I write about food every Friday, and sometimes more often than that. Yet somehow I’ve managed to not write about barbecue.That’s too bad because no other cuisine is more debated than Q. It is also the cuisine I feel most qualified to speak intelligently about. More on that later.

So now that summer is here, let’s start talking barbecue! Here’s my plan… Every other week I will review a barbecue restaurant. Why every other week? Because my cholesterol is high enough! All good things in moderation, right? I’d also like to keep my blogging schedule open to talk about new restaurants that are likely to come along.

I’ve assembled the following list of barbecue restaurants. I’m limiting my choices to those in Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and south Forsyth. I considered throwing Roswell into the mix but didn’t. They have some terrific Q including Swallow at the Hollow. The list is pretty long as it is, but I’m not opposed to making it longer.

Here’s the list and the rough order I hope to follow:

  • Smokejack
  • Woody’s
  • Slopes
  • One Star Ranch
  • Pig-N-Chik
  • ‘Cue
  • Dickey’s
  • Jim-N-Nicks

They are in no particular order, just randomly assembled. I’ve been to all but one of these, yet will try to visit each one more time before reviewing.

So why do I feel qualified to talk Q? Because I love the stuff! And like many aficionados, I’ve traveled to a lot of venerable Q joints across the southeast. My family is from North Carolina so I tend to favor Q of that tradition (specifically Lexington-style barbecue from the Piedmont region of the state).

I’m also certified to judge competition barbecue in both the Kansas City and Memphis sanctioning bodies (KCBS and MBN). I only judge two or three contests a year, but I’ve been fortunate to try Q from some outstanding champion pitmasters.

Overall Thoughts on BBQ in Alpharetta

I tend to have an overall negative impression of Q here for several reasons. First, Georgia doesn’t have a unique barbecue tradition of its own. There are influences of Carolina style and Memphis style here, but nothing really sets us apart. Second, there are no generations-old barbecue joints in Alpharetta. The oldest joint on my list is probably Slope’s, and they started up in the mid-90′s. Contrast this to Atlanta and the south side which boast some terrific old Q joints. Third, we’re overrun with chain and franchise barbecue. This goes without saying of any restaurant concept in Alpharetta. But in my opinion barbecue doesn’t lend itself well to franchising. This cuisine is a craft. It takes time and talent to make it well. However, BBQ technology has advanced a lot. I’ve had some decent Q from electric and gas cookers that smoke with wood pellets.

A trend you need to pay attention to is what I call boutique barbecue. These are restaurants that craft small batches of barbecue using quality ingredients. Dive joints they are not. Expensive? Absolutely! We’re talking steakhouse prices. Here in the affluent burbs, I believe you’re more likely to find the best barbecue in places like this.

So let’s give this barbecue thing a whirl this summer and see how it goes. Feel free to disagree with what I say. I’ll try to keep my BBQ snobbery in check. At the end of the day, if you like the Q from somewhere, that’s all the matters.

Smokejack, you’re on deck!

8 Responses to “Let’s Review Some Barbecue”

  1. Curious May 28, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    How does one get certified to judge competition barbecue?

    I’m certified to judge Bikini Jello Wrestling but I’m pretty sure the process is different.

  2. Dustin May 28, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    I look foward to reading your reviews. Love me some BBQ.

  3. Lee May 28, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    Regarding certification… It isn’t complicated. You have to attend a class/seminar kind of thing to go over the process of judging, the rules and whatnot. Maybe I’ll blog about that at some point in all this.

  4. Rusty August 28, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    I’m also a BBQ nut, and have visited every place on your list. There is a place in Roswell called Spiced Right that completely blows away all the ones listed in this article.

  5. Lee August 29, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    Thanks for the suggestion, Rusty. I’ve got two more joints to review (maybe three) to complete the sweep of Alpharetta/Milton/South Forsyth. I’ve considered adding Roswell’s barbecue to the mix, but I might need a break after all this.

    I’d be interested in your comments on my individual reviews so far.


  1. Roots in Alpharetta » Blog Archive » Smokejack BBQ – Alpharetta - June 4, 2010

    [...] Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This week I continue a summer series reviewing barbecue restaurants in Alpharetta. [...]

  2. Roots in Alpharetta » Blog Archive » ‘Cue Barbecue – Milton - July 16, 2010

    [...] proven to be unlucky to restaurants. It didn’t take me long to figure out that they were a boutique barbecue shop. But slowly I started to notice some familiar things. The racks of fresh bread, hand-cut fries, [...]

  3. Roots in Alpharetta » Blog Archive » Final Thoughts on Alpharetta Barbecue - October 1, 2010

    [...] do a before-and-after on my LDL cholesterol! If you didn’t read it back in May, check out my kickoff article to this series. I reviewed a total of nine barbecue restaurants in Alpharetta, Milton and south Forsyth. [...]

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