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Big Shanty Smokehouse dining review, Kennesaw

Review by Jon Watson

Review by Jon Watson



As I come to my last bite of smoky spare rib and gaze at my near-empty plate, my eyes widen in momentary panic. I’ve just remembered that they have barbecue sauce here. Perhaps I should try some if I’m supposed to review this place.

“This place” is Big Shanty Smokehouse in Kennesaw, opened three years ago by Chic Dillard, who has 30 years in the restaurant industry. Dillard serves as pitmaster while wife Sissy and daughter Shannon oversee the sides and desserts, including the popular banana pudding.

Little more than a roadside shack deep in the heart of Kennesaw, Big Shanty produces some of the best barbecue I’ve seen come out of Georgia. Dillard respects his meat and it shows. Briskets and butts get a healthy coat of house-made dry rub and are bathed in hickory smokes for 13 hours, where they develop a bark that will earn the respect of the most discerning barbecue purists.

The balance of that bark, with the bold hickory smoke flavor that permeates the meat, makes sauce almost inconsequential. Big Shanty serves only one kind of barbecue sauce — a sweet and tangy tomato-based concoction‚ and every meat gets a light brushing before plating, as well as a cup of extra sauce on the side. However, I highly recommend trying the meat straight out of the smoker before you consider adulterating the flavor with more sauce.

 Steve’s Sampler is a satisfying combination of beef brisket, ribs, sausage, smoked pork, potato salad and baked beans. Photos by Becky Stein / Special

Steve’s Sampler is a satisfying combination of beef brisket, ribs, sausage, smoked pork, potato salad and baked beans. Photos by Becky Stein / Special

A great starting point for first-timers is Steve’s Sampler ($14.95), a tour de meat featuring brisket, house-made sausage, ribs and pulled and chopped pork. Dillard pulls his pork butts by hand, saving the flavor-rich bark for the chopped pork. Pulled and chopped pork are moist and tender, but the chunky bark mixed into the chopped version makes it the clear winner. The meat on the superb ribs ($8.95 half slab, $16.95 full slab) pulls cleanly from the bone when you bite into it; it’s tender but not overcooked to the point where it just falls away.

Big Shanty does not represent itself as specializing in Texas barbecue, but the brisket would make any Texan proud. From my vantage point at the two-seat bar, I watch as Dillard carved inch-thick slices of glistening smoky brisket so tender that it pulls apart with the slightest nudge of my fork.

Beef brisket done Texas-style pulls apart easily.

The beef brisket is done Texas-style.

The meats are the star of any meal at Big Shanty, but the sides ($1.50 each) do not disappoint. The baked navy, pinto and kidney beans spend three hours in the smoker, where they’re pumped full of hickory goodness, and the Southern-style potato salad brought me straight back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Along with the coleslaw, they are the only sides to have permanent slots on the menu, although other options such as collard greens and mac and cheese make regular appearances.

Big Shanty Smokehouse belongs in any debate over the best barbecue in Atlanta. Whether you live inside or outside the Perimeter, if you have barbecue on the brain, it is worth the drive.

$-$$3393 Cherokee St., Kennesaw, 770-499-7444

Food: Classic barbecue fare
Service: Friendly and prompt, food usually arrives quickly
Best dishes: Chopped pork, beef brisket, spare ribs, banana pudding
Vegetarian selections: Limited to sides and a few salads
Price range: $-$$
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.
Children: Family friendly
Parking: In lot
Reservations: No
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Low to moderate
Patio: Yes, screened porch
Takeout: Yes

25 comments Add your comment

[...] the article here: Big Shanty Smokehouse dining review, Kennesaw | Food and More with … Uncategorized dillard, kennesaw, opened-three, pitmaster-while, place, serves-as-pitmaster, [...]

Josh H

November 19th, 2010
2:35 pm

So, do three stars mean that if I live in Midtown, it’s worth the 50-minute drive without caveat, or only if I’m looking for the best BBQ in Georgia?

Jon Watson

November 19th, 2010
2:48 pm

@Josh H – If you are looking for BBQ, this is worth the drive. I live in South Buckhead (almost midtown) and I have returned since the visits that I based this review off of, and will return in the future.

Given their hours and the drive time invovled, I’d recommend making it a weekend lunch excursion (assuming that, like myself, you are working until at least 6 every night). Plus, walking in the door of a BBQ joint 15 minutes before closing time is never the ideal time to eat there anyway, as the meat is usually coming off of the smoker at 9-10 AM in the morning.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Laurie Ford, Live to Feast. Live to Feast said: Review: Big Shanty Smokehouse- [...]


November 19th, 2010
11:36 pm

Hey Jon,
Thanks for the great review and we definitely got slammed today as a result of the article. I just wanted to clarify that we smoke ribs & chickens several times a day – it is only the butts & brisket that smoke overnight. Can’t wait for you to try our (fresh) Smoked Salmon or Salmon Dip sometime.


November 20th, 2010
12:02 am

BBQ is a million times better with that glorious middle S.C. mustard/vinegar yellow sauce! That sweet tomato/ketchup crap really sucks!!!!


November 20th, 2010
4:36 am

Please understand: If it’s not pig pork cooked over an open hickory wood fire it’s not BBQ! BBQ is something you eat, not something you do and there is no such thing as BBQ chicken or beef. And when you write of BBQ remember BBQ is a noun, never a verb. Your writing sounds as if you might be a Yankee.


November 20th, 2010
6:56 am


BBQ is indeed a verb…as anyone who has done it will tell you…and from your post I can tell you probably never have. It is a deliberate and painstaking process. Are you going to tell Miss Tootsie at Snow’s BBQ in Texas that her award winning brisket is not BBQ? I’d like to see that…

If you think that BBQ is only pork, then you need to educate yourself. The native Americans showed us how to BBQ centuries ago and I think they probably cooked more than pork. As for your shot that he “might be a yankee”, do yourself a favor and travel to St. Louis or southern Illinois sometime and eat some BBQ there…it might expand your mind a bit!


November 20th, 2010
7:59 am

BBQ is not where it comes from or what kind of food it is — It’s how you cook it! You can get good BBQ in Orlando Fl. I’ve had some. I cooked it myself. Also — my wife does a mean smoked yellow squash on our BBQ pit. I always make my own sauce to suit MY taste and eat it even when I go out to different BBQ places which is not very often because I’m always disappointed.

Tell it like it is

November 20th, 2010
8:00 am

Hey….I would even go north for southern BBQ.

Paul From Milton

November 20th, 2010
8:29 am

In my opinion this is one of the best BBQ joints in the area. It’s a real BBQ shack with no pretension and if you blink you’ll drive past it. But it is worth the drive because there is no other place like it that I have found. The meat is moist and smokey and cooked by someone who cares about what he is doing. It’s a real gem.


November 20th, 2010
8:47 am

I was there last time about a year ago and wasn’t impressed. Ribs were dry, beans were meh, and the pork needed the sauce.

Jon Watson

November 20th, 2010
11:17 am

@Zeke – I too am partial to the Mustard/Vinegar Carolina sauce, and that is what I usually make when I smoke a butt at home. But it didn’t matter at Big Shanty…didn’t really need the sauce at all (though when I got some to take home, I did hit it with my own Carolina sauce, and it was delicious!).

@Lakeshia – I’m still not sure if your comment is SPAM or not…it doesn’t seem like you actually read the review. Please point out where I used BBQ as a verb. And I’m not going to dignify your statement that pork is the only kind of BBQ with a response. There are a few million people in Texas that would disagree with you.


November 20th, 2010
7:04 pm

Everyone, go and read the Big Shanty Smokehouse reviews at and some other sites. You will see how loved this place is. If you have eaten there, you know how good the BBQ is. Try to find any better and post where that may be. Chic, you keep smoking meat the way that it should be. Still looking forward to your prime rib special! Thanks.


November 21st, 2010
5:34 pm

Went and tried it today… green beans were good, pork was awesome, ribs were great. Loved the sauce. The beans and potato salad were… meh. Brunswick stew was really bbq’y. The price was outta this world for the amount of food you got. $7 for a pork plate with 2 sides? Sold! If I’m over Barrett way, and in the mood for Q, definitely will remember this place. I asked them if they had seen an increase in business this weekend and they said it’s been outta this world. Sooooooo…. people are listening ;)


November 22nd, 2010
2:15 am

I live in the area. Williamson Bros. BBQ is much better. I think that Big Shanty’s meat is over smoked and I don’t like the sides at all. And what is it with BBQ joint that give slices of plan slices of white bread that had not been toasted? If you’re coming to Kennesaw for great “Q” stop in Marietta at Williamson Bros. and you’ll have a great meal.


November 22nd, 2010
1:40 pm


Really? Lakeshia, the statement you made really doesn’t relate to the post. This is a dining review. Why must you critique the english language or how it’s being used? I love to eat and I am sure everyone whose reading it would agree. The only thing that concerns me is if the food is good and the cost. No one cares what and why it is considered BBQ and how it is used. Get a life.


November 22nd, 2010
2:39 pm

Jon, Thank you for reviewing a great little secret BBQ place. I’ve eaten their on many occaisons and it is one of my favorite BBQ joints. The meat has such a great smoky taste to it, and the sauce complements, but doesn’t overtake the meat. Additionally, they are just really friendly people and care about their art.
Cobbscout: If you think Williams Bros BBQ is better and Big Shanty is overcooked, you have some weird (no offense) expectations of bbq. I’ve been to Williams Bros a couple of times and find their BBQ quite dissapointing. The ribs literally fall off the bone, and that is not a complement, but a demonstration of overcooked meat.

Wilburs been smokin somethin

November 22nd, 2010
3:10 pm

Don’t waste your time on that place……Bub-Ba-Q is where it’s at !!!!!!

Beagle Bailey

November 22nd, 2010
3:24 pm

Hawg Wild in Clarkesville is the best I’ve had in Georgia !


November 22nd, 2010
4:55 pm


November 24th, 2010
3:14 am

there is a dearth of good bbq in metro Atlanta – if the pic associated with this article is any indication, the brisket and pulled pork look awfully DRY – i’ve heard all the talk about Williamson Bros and Fox Bros – have yet to try Williamson but Fox Bros is overrated and overpriced – they cant even get sweet tea right


November 24th, 2010
11:46 pm

Help – would love for you to taste the product instead of judging by a picture. If you find any of our smoked meats DRY your meal is on me. There’s a reason we have been rated #1 in for BBQ in Atlanta on urbanspoon for the past 20 months. Our sweet tea is pretty darn good also.


November 26th, 2010
8:37 am

Thank you for confirming something I have long suspected – specifically the ignorance of countless numbers of Texans. Chicken or beef might be grilled but neither can ever become BBQ. Here in North Carolina we understand that if it is not PIG PORK it is not BBQ and we further understand that if a BBQ joint does not have ready stacks of hickory wood underneath a nearby shed and real wood smoke pouring from its chimney it is not a BBQ joint. If you desire authentic BBQ you have only to travel to Lexington, NC.


November 26th, 2010
8:42 am

And BTW, “sweet tea” is a redundant phrase as is “barbecued pork” – only a Yankee would order “sweet tea” and those with a superior knowledge of BBA understand that BBQ is pork.