BBQ Bucket List: Atlanta’s Best

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know outside of sports perhaps my biggest interest is barbecue. I’m constantly in pursuit of the best pulled pork or brisket.

I first fell in love with barbecue when we would visit my grandmother at her summer condo in Cashiers, N.C., when I was around nine.

I’m sure I had barbecue earlier in my life as a kid in Atlanta, or even when we moved to Ponte Vedra, but when I think back to my first experience at meat church I always envision ribs or pulled pork at the Carolina Smokehouse.

Side note, in researching this post I learned that the restaurant has relocated from the mountains to Carolina Beach. My first reaction was to be upset that I couldn’t go back to the original location one day, but criticizing someone for moving to the beach seems a bit hypocritical.

From that point I always loved going to different barbecue restaurants. But my quest didn’t begin in earnest until I moved to Atlanta in 2013.

My wife (then my fiancé) was in her second year of law school at Emory and we decided Atlanta was going to be home. So I quit my job covering Florida State for and moved up after baseball season.

I didn’t have a job for the first few months, but fate would give me a mission in the form of the May issue of Atlanta Magazine. It was the BBQ edition and had the cities’ Top 10 restaurants. Unemployed, I figured visiting as many of the spots on the list would be a good way to get acquainted with the city as an adult.

I never made it to all 10 spots, getting sidetracked with other excursions because the Atlanta BBQ scene is an ever-changing landscape. I chronicled my journey with #BBQBucketlist on Instagram. It’s taken on a bit of a life of it’s own, so I’ve decided to make it a part of this site.

So without further adieu, here is my Atlanta BBQ Top 10 from when I lived there. Keep in mind places DAS BBQ and B’s Cracklin weren’t open before I left so I cant judge them just yet. Although I have been to B’s Cracklin in Savannah, Ga. and while it was good I didn’t foresee it taking over the No. 1 spot in Atlanta last fall before a fire in March.

10. The Greater Good

The Greater Good has three locations in Atlanta, but I find the one in Buckhead to be the most consistent. The pulled pork is usually a little better than the brisket.

9. Praise the Lard

Praise the Lard should be in everyone’s Top 10 on name along. But the pulled pork and mac-and-cheese are what lands this Buford spot on my list.

8. Fatt Matt’s

An iconic Atlanta establishment since 1990 with some of the best ribs around.

7. Local 7

Ok, so Local 7 is technically a Pub and not a BBQ restaurant, but it’s my list and my rules. Plus it has some of the best smoked wings in the city and the beautiful delicacy above that are pork shanks. The Tucker restaurant calls them Pork Wings.

6. Fox Bros. BBQ

Look, I know that Fox Bros. is No. 1 on a lot of people’s lists And for good reason. They do a lot of things well, including smoked wings, brisket and pulled pork. While it’s always very good, I’ve never been wowed by it like I have from some of the other spots on this list.

5. Sam’s BBQ-1

It’s unassuming in it’s Marietta strip mall location, but Sam’s BBQ-1 can do brisket and pulled pork really well.

4. Grand Champion

Grand Champion is up to five Atlanta locations now. I went to three of them and there was no difference in quality. I highly recommend the brisket and mac at the Krog Street kiosk.

3. Dave Poe’s

Dave Poe’s and Sam’s BBQ-1 were once partners but the Cobb County dynasty split up in 2009 according to Atlanta Magazine. They’re pretty similar, but I prefer the pulled pork at Poe’s.

2. Heirloom Market BBQ

Heirloom may be the most creative BBQ I’ve ever had. It’s Korean-fusion flavors work on every level. From the spice on the pork or brisket, the kimchi mac or the Korean sweet potato slices it’s all tremendous. You may have to wait in line, and you’ll have to stand to eat, but it’s very worth it.

1. Community Q

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I regret nothing. #bbqbucketlist

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I’d happily eat at any of the restaurants on this list, but if you told me I could only go to one I’d pick Community Q in Decatur. It’s the place that drew me back in the most often. For my money they have the best brisket and mac-and-cheese in the south. Their pulled pork is also a contender. My wife also loves their Kitchen Sink salad with some meat on top. I’ve never been disappointed in anything I’ve eaten at Community Q and now that this post is finished I may jump in the car and head north now.

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