What's the nice thing about barbecue in Atlanta, other than it being readily available all the time? That there isn't one defining regional version. As the hub of the South, we luck out in that we've got transplants who love tangy Carolina vinegar and mustard, sweet and sticky Memphis, Texas brisket and even Korean-influences…you get the picture. There's also great barbecue out of food trucks and at farmer's market entrants like Smokin' Mo's and Meating Street. And while last summer we looked at the best ITP BBQ places close to the city's core, those in the know head outside the Perimeter for some of the region's finest. Here are our picks:
Open since 1971, Douglasville's Hudson's Hickory House remains a neighborhood favorite serving more than straight-up 'cue. But BBQ is still the star of the show, and Hudson's Hickory Fries, a platter of french fries covered in cheese, ranch dressing and barbecued pork, predate the national obsession with poutine.
Combining two Southern staples in one operation, Beaver Creek Biscuit Company & Barbecue in Lithia Springs does the latter better than the former, with much of the heavy lifting done by a tangy, mustard-laced condiment they call Seminole sauce.
If you're a fan of chopped pork (in a vinegary sauce) rather than pulled, make your way to Austell's Wallace BBQ — a place that's been in operation since 1966. You'll also find some seriously wallet-friendly prices, as well as the occasional offering of smoked pork skins.
Williamson Bros. BBQ got its start in Douglasville a quarter century back, and though it has locations up in Canton and Marietta as well, hit up the original. Stick with ribs slathered in the popular sauce. A side of corn fritters won't do you wrong, either.
Dave Poe's BBQ and Sam's BBQ-1, both in Marietta, are perhaps some of the best-known barbecue spots in the greater metro Atlanta area, and for good reason: The founders of each had their origins working together, along with that of Decatur's Community Q, in the much-beloved spot BBQ-1. The trio parted ways to open their own shops.
Smyrna's Ebony & Ivory is mainly a to-go spot, but they make up for small space in big flavors — and the addition of tacos and fried catfish is hard to find in the more traditionally pork-focused eateries in the area. Get a little regional taste with peach barbecue sauce, Alabama white sauce and Mississippi comeback sauce.
Way up in Kennesaw, Big Shanty Smokehouse turns out solid plates of 'cue, though you'd be remiss to miss its barbecued chicken, one of the rare examples in town that's not overly dry. Ribs are generally terrific, and if the Firecracker Chicken Dip appetizer, a mashed salad of smoked chicken and hot sauce, is available as a special, order it.
If you find yourself in Woodstock, hit up Bub-Ba-Q. It's an outpost of the original from way up in Jasper, Georgia, and offers all-you-can-eat specials during the week (pork on Mondays, ribs on Tuesdays). But come in for the brisket — when it's on, it's on, and you'll have no need for any of the watery sauces.
It's a hike to make it all the way out to Zeigler's BBQ & Catering in Acworth, but it's well worth it. Sandwiches come in either quarter-pound or third-of-a-pound varieties, but it's tough to go wrong with pretty much anything on the menu, from the ribs to the chicken to the pork.
Near the hallowed remains of Roswell's long-gone Georgia Pig (RIP), you'll find Bill Greenwood's Swallow at the Hollow turning out excellent barbecue, doing the organic and GMO-free thing since before it was, well, a thing. Brunswick stew here is not to be missed, and while smoked sausage is usually an afterthought at most Georgia 'cue spots, Greenwood does it right, and occasional live music amps up the atmosphere.
Spiced Right Ribhouse puts its strength right there in the name. Stick with the ribs at this Roswell spot, which used to have other locations in Suwanee and Lawrenceville. The biscuits aren't too shabby, either, and the brisket and pulled pork hold their own.
Grand Champion BBQ, also in Roswell's historic district, recently opened a full-service restaurant on Canton Street. Hit it up, or the counter-service spot on Shallowford Road. Opt for the excellent sliced brisket, rich with smoke and a nice layer of bark. (You can also find an intown 'cue stall at Krog Street Market.)
Lilburn's Tipsy Pig BBQ owner Terry Lee built his experience with pork during years at other local chains. The restaurant takes up a counter inside of a gas station, crafting smoky, rich ribs and mac 'n' cheese. Sweeter, Memphis-style sauces augment the meats.
Smoked wings and an appetizer of potato skins laden with pimento cheese, barbecue (pork or beef) and sauce make for a great way to start a meal at Tucker's Greater Good BBQ, and frankly, that's enough to be a meal in and of itself. But try the smoky pulled pork — and take note that there's also a Roswell Road location in Chastain Park, for in-town options.
Up and running since 1947, the Jonesboro gem of a shack that is Dean's Barbeque turns out terrific, not-too-sweet beans, among many other staples. The Brunswick stew has little competition (though see below), and Dean's thick, smoky sauce gives a slab of ribs some good tang.
In this unassuming, gas station-adjacent spot, Louisiana Smoke House BBQ has quickly turned skeptics into fans. The spot sells whole smoked chickens, and the smoked sausage shows some of the Louisiana spice. There are also uncommon sides like red beans and rice and Cajun-spiced corn, as well as more expected offerings.
To the southwest of Atlanta in Newnan, Sprayberry's has been run by four generations of the same family since 1926. The pork has kept people coming back for almost a century, and the Brunswick stew's some of the best you'll find (save for going all the way down to Brunswick, naturally). Opt for the location closer to Downtown Newnan, not the one right off the highway.