Sure, Austin, Kansas City, and Memphis may hog (get it?!) the barbecue spotlight, but here in Atlanta, we're home to more than just the country's best strip clubs: we've also got some of the country's best BBQ, as evidenced by Bone Lick, Thompson Brothers, and so many other places, it's hard to make a bad decision. Here are the 12 best...
In Atlanta’s pork-saturated marketplace, it’s refreshing to find people who take pride in the bovine side of barbecue. Served with a perfect “bark” of smoky, crunchy meat, CQ's bones aren't just giant, they're also better than that episode where Booth and Dr. Brennan find so... err, well, better than any episode of Bones, actually.
With no real seating (standing room only on the patio), and almost no parking, you’re going to order at the counter, and may have to wait outside, too, but their Korean-Southern hybrid Q is worth it... and so is the hassle of eating it while perched on the hood of your car, or sitting on one of the piles of hickory stacked outside, or wherever.
The criticism of GCB’s meat is that it is sometimes "too delectable." It's like when you tell your boss you’re “too hard of a worker.” But don’t worry, once you make it past the smoker by the door, if the ribs you order actually fall off the bone, you’ll have some of the city’s creamiest mac and cheese to help catch it.
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The Brothers Fox are renowned for their meat-smoking prowess, but their more creative takes on meat include chicken-fried ribs, a Brunswick stew version of mac and cheese, and a “burger” made with brisket they've sliced, covered with bacon, and drenched in melted pimento cheese.
This impressively rundown restaurant has won myriad awards, principally on the strength of some killer ribs, which happen to provide a nice “meat plate” on which you're encouraged to pile on some Polish sausage, or half a chicken, or a few of their Famous Que Wraps -- BBQ pork wrapped in bite-sized bits of dough and then deep-fried.
There's so much BBQ pork, chicken, and beef in this city, it's easy to miss out on 'cue's red-headed step-child: bologna... unless you're at Thompson Bros, where they'll banish all those terrible memories of lunch boxes past by piling a mass of the sweet, smoky sliced "meat" on a bun, creating a sandwich that only an idiot would trade for Timmy's Lunchables.
They were once labeled as underrated, but it’s time to give SAB the love it deserves. It is, after all, one of the most consistently delicious spots for eclectic ‘cue in town. Not a lot of restaurants in town could legitimately pull off Memphis baby back ribs, Korean spare ribs, a huge “dinosaur bone” beef rib, sweet and sour “Wu-Tang” brined/smoked/fried wings, and homemade banana pudding under one roof.
Since we last told you Smoke Ring was due for more attention, Chef Jordan Wakefield and the Food 101 team have added an amazingly funky compendium of smokery that you'll love whether or not you've vaped in the last hour. Examples? Smoked/fried gator tail bites, a burnt ends bahn mi sandwich, and new weekend brunch items like seasonal preserve-stuffed French toast (it's GA peach time!), and a single giant tater tot w/ homemade bacon. Order these any weekend, but particularly on their Bluegrass Brunch every first Sunday, where local talent Shawn Spencer rocks out with a three-man ensemble from the wooden dining room stage.
Run by two native Atlantans named Nate and Drew, this down-home shack with a ‘70s-inspired, BBQ-sauce-hued sign (with fat-bottomed typography to make you feel more at home with your big ol’ BBQ-lovin’ ass) feels almost out of place for it’s Lenox Rd exit location. However, the neighborhood folk -- and outsiders -- love it for the simple menu of sweet, tangy, ketchup-/vinegar-based BBQ sauce-covered meats, including St. Louis ribs and other meats slow-cooked on GA-based Stump’s Smokers rigs. They even serve breakfasts like brisket biscuits starting at 7am on weekdays.
Run by Drew Kirkland -- former Chef de Cuisine at Rathbun’s and Kevin Rathbun Steak -- the clean and modernized 521 space doesn’t seem to fit with the standard shack-tastic decor of a BBQ business. But you'll soon realize it’s fine when you taste the flavor in the 12-hour smoked brisket sandwich, the hormone-free roasted chicken, the special beer-braised brisket, or smoked half-rack spare ribs w/ two slices of H&F white bread, with sides like Coca-Cola-braised collards.
DBA’s kitchen is so insane they could likely start putting out actual smoked porcelain plates covered in sauce and they’d sell out on G.P. Using hickory on twin Southern Pride rigs, DBA smokes exceptional wings, wet and dry ribs (St. Louis or baby-back), 15-hour Angus brisket, apple-brined pork chops, and more. They also have great events (monthly BBQ-sauce-making classes; adult trivia on Thursdays...), and a weekend brunch which includes beignets, smoked/fried chicken and waffles, brisket hash w/ fried eggs, and a fried green tomato ham Benedict on grilled challah.
Set in the Luckie Marietta District area, this isn’t a location where you’d expect the barbecue to be above-average in anyway... because ATL visitors will eat damn-near anything that doesn’t get up and walk away. Yet they’re making a come-up, thanks to slow-smoked whole Springer Mountain chicken, Creekstone Farms all-natural brisket, burnt ends chili, and vanilla milkshakes spiked with Bulleit bourbon.
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Mike Jordan believes barbecue is one of the only things that keeps Southerners from killing each other. He’s on Twitter at @michaelbjordan and will accept offers to try any new or old barbecue place he hasn’t already if you swear on ya mama it’s good.
1. Community Q BBQ1361 Clairmont Rd, Decatur
2. Heirloom Market BBQ2243 Akers Mill Rd, Atlanta
3. Grand Champion BBQ4401 Shallowford Rd, Roswell
4. Fox Bros Bar-B-Q1238 Dekalb Ave NE, Atlanta
5. Bone Lick BBQ Edgewood327 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta
6. Daddy D'z264 Memorial Dr SE, Atlanta
7. Thompson Brothers BBQ2445 Cobb Pkwy SE, Smyrna
8. Sweet Auburn Barbecue656 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta
9. Smoke Ring309 Nelson Street, Atlanta
10. Lovies BBQ3420 Piedmont Rd NE Ste B, Atlanta
11. 521 Kitchen & Que4365 Roswell Rd #4367, Atlanta
12. D.B.A. Barbecue1190 N Highland Ave NE, Ste B, Atlanta
13. Twin Smokers BBQ300 Marietta St NW, Atlanta
Deftly plating locally-sourced BBQ bites, Q's from two ATL natives who leverage their grilling experience (one was part-owner at Marietta's Sam & Dave's BBQ) to turn the Emory-area joint into a true neighborhood spot; that homey feel's accomplished by leaps and bounds with comforting classics like pulled pork and ribs.
From a duo originally repping TN and South Korea, Heirloom is a down-homey, natural-wood-surrounded 'cue house with Texas-sourced pecan, red oak, hickory & fruitwood ready to be tossed into two custom BBQ vaults where GA-farmed meats are slow-smoked. Get down with a variety of dinners & sandwiches (sliced brisket, stuffed turkey, baby back/St. Louis-style ribs...), sides like pork belly & Tabasco vinegar collards, grass-fed burgers, and smoked sausages including kielbasa, chaurice, and hot Italian.
You’ll walk by the smoker as you come in the front door of this East Cobb BBQ joint where they're serving some of the city's sweetest ribs. Don’t worry, if your rib meat actually falls off the bone, you’ll have some of the city’s creamiest mac and cheese to help catch it.
An Atlanta institution serving up solid BBQ fare like pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches, Frito pie, and burnt ends. We think that Fox Bros Bar-B-Q serves up some of the best BBQ in town, but you'll have to stop by and see for yourself.
Thrifty-chic arcade and pub serves some of the best southern-style BBQ you’ll ever taste. The shotgun-style restaurant interior has an open kitchen, retro booths, wraparound bar fashioned from repurposed wood, and arcade games. The menu offers a lineup of local craft beer, daily drink specials, combo meals, and more. Off the backroom is the adjoining Edgewood Speakeasy, an equally rustic hotspot with exposed brick walls and low lighting.
The exterior of Daddy D'z certainly has a lot going on, but their crazy decorations simply can't compare to the award winning barbecue that they are serving up inside. If you are not a huge barbecue fan, make sure to try some of their other meats, which are just as delicious.
Thompson's claims, "their secret is in the smoke," but we say it's in their brisket, sliced bork, and famous bologna sandwiches. We think that Thompson's serves some of the best BBQ in Atlanta, but don't take our word for it. Stop by and see for yourself!
Atlanta locals agree that Sweet Auburn Barbecue is one of the most underrated BBQ joints in town, and they need to start getting some recognition. Their menu is as eclectic as it is flavorful, and they enjoy featuring varied BBQ styles from all over the world.
We are already seeing great things from Smoke Ring, currently in their soft opening, like Kobe beef hotdogs wrapped in bacon just wait till they really get the smokers fired up. Locals think that Smoke Ring serves up not only the best BBQ in Castleberry Hill, but in all of Atlanta.
This 70's inspired BBQ joint is a favorite in Buckhead, but locals will tell you that Lovie's serves up the best BBQ in Atlanta. Their menu is simple, they've mastered the classics, and their breakfast dishes are like something out of a BBQ lover's dreams.
This Sandy Springs meatery is deep with seating and flavor. The brisket and pork are on-point, but the fried beef bologna sandwich is a hidden gem. No matter where you sit in their long dining room, your clothes will absorb the wafting aromas of tons of beef, and the opposite sex will love you for it.
From veteran BBQ'ers (Rathbun's, Eclipse di Luna, B'ham's Jim 'N Nick's), DBA -- or "Doing Business As" -- has taken over the former Vine space to serve up pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken/turkey, and KC- & Memphis-style ribs, plus 15 house-made sides. Meat lovers flock to this warm, pub-like space for its full bar, friendly service, and (duh) gourmet smoked meat selections.
Meat scientists installed two massive smokers at this Atlanta BBQ spot and used a proprietary blend of Texas mesquite and post oak for the perfect pink flavor ring. They’ve taken the best of all the US’s ‘cue, given it a dirty South twist, and piled it on a plate for you. Their slogan is something we should all live by, “BBQ Bourbon Atlanta”.