Just when I thought I’d heard –- and tasted — it all, along comes a blast of something I never thought of. This time, it’s wine with barbecue. Bar-B-Q-Red has arrived. Biagio Cru and Estate Wines importers have developed a wine that will “stand up to any spice or flavor that a barbecue sauce throws at you—all at an affordable price,” according to Biagio Cru’s Ben Restivo.
‘Red’ is actually the second bottle in the “food and wine” collection — the first was “Rigatoni Red.” I’m voting for fried chicken Fume Blanc as the next installation.
In the mean time, here are some spots for ‘cue that you can celebrate at — and drink red, white or maybe even blue this weekend. And if you find yourself in Athens, check out these spots, recommended by my colleague and King of the Dawgs, Bill King.
The Hickory Pig Barbecue, 3605 Thompson Road, Gainesville, 770-503-5235 not rated
A full plate of some of the Hickory Pig’s low-and-slow roasted pork shoulder will have you drinking red, white, green — whatever — as long as the BBQ lasts. This joint makes some mean collards, too. But one of the best concoctions is what Hickory Pig calls a “no milk” milkshake, which is basically vanilla ice cream mixed with Hershey’s syrup and a spot of heavy cream. Little more than a shack, the Pig’s walls are adorned with signs requesting, “Help figure your own tab”; outside a rolling marquee lets bikers know they are welcome.
Honey Pig, 3473 Old Norcross Road, Suite 304, Duluth, 770-476-9292 ***
Who says BBQ has to be red, white and blue? Fashioned after the pork belly barbecue spots cropping up across Los Angeles, Honey Pig Korean barbecue in Duluth relies on the charm of the old Seoul-style barbecue spots, where giant drum-size lids of iron rice-cooking pots are inverted, then fashioned into a grill and where smallish slabs of pork belly (think thick bacon) are grilled with whole-leaf kimchi (tongbaechu kimchi), mushrooms, onions and an array of other meats, including prawns and bulgogi (marinated Korean sirloin). Here’s how it works: No matter what size your table (and bigger is best), there will be a steward button. When you press it, every server in the restaurant will yelp “hey!” in Korean. Then a server will arrive tableside, armed with scissors and a heaping plate of pork belly, kimchi and Korean-style miso soup, which is a cold and refreshing antidote to the heat of the griddle in front of you. (Honestly, by the end of the meal it will feel as if you had a grease facial.) Beyond full and just this side of sated, Honey Pig will leave you in a food coma, dreaming of the next bite of pork belly, and searching for a bottle of Fabreze.
Sam’s BBQ1, 4944 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta, 770-977-3005 not rated
Sam Huff and David Poe split a little while back, but both keep on smokin’. This space, the original, is the size of a shoebox, probably to deter people from lingering, since it’s really more of a takeout joint. There are a couple of tables flanked by a wall of fame that boasts a case of at least 30 trophies won at various barbecue championships across the state and nationally, mostly for beef. The brisket, even on an off day, is exceptionally good. It has that crosshatched pattern across its grain that happens when muscle and fat meld, slow-cooked for hours until finally the edge is crowned with a dark, caramelized crust lined on the inside with a characteristic pink ring. Ditto the pulled pork — more literally giant shreds of pork that are smoky, tender and rimmed in pink that gives way to brown. Sandwiches are made with big slabs of Texas toast doused in butter (oh good, more fat!) with four or five hamburger dills smashed between the meat and the bread. It needs absolutely no sauce at all, but if you’re lookin’, go for the North Carolina vinegar-style found on the big table near the window. It’s peppy, a little sweet and laced, albeit lightly, with chili peppers.
Hometown Barbecue, 1173 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville. 770-963-5383 ***
Pulled pork here is nothing to shake a stick at, but the real reason to come to Hometown is for the ribs, which are full, meaty and fall from the bone after a little preliminary nudge from the fork. Slow cooking flawlessly renders the fat from the meat, leaving the ribs tender and smoky, with a caramelized edge and a bit of char.
Dave Poe’s BBQ, 660 Whitlock Ave., Marietta. 770-792-2272 not rated
Just because Sam and Dave split, doesn’t mean the barbecue has changed, this joint still offers some of the best pulled pork and brisket in the area. Both have that slow-smoked, striated, pink-ringed madness that turns men, women and children from polite, napkin-using, elbows-off-the-table types into crazed maniacs ready to kill for the closest wet nap.
More places to head for smoke without mirrors: Pig N Chik, Daddy D’z, Wyatt’s (pictured), Fox Bros. BBQ, Spiced Right, Pink Pig in Cherry Log, Sugar Ribs in Chattanooga, newly opened Dba in Va/Hi, Café Pig in Peachtree City, the “new” Rolling Bones – have you been yet?