The 10 Best Barbecue Spots In Atlanta
photo credit: Mhandy Gerard
There are three essential components to a great barbecue restaurant: the tenderness of the meat, the taste of the sauce, and the tone of the actual space. Oh, you didn’t know about that last key ingredient? A good vibe—we’re talking some down-home music, worn-out stickers on the wall, maybe a game on TV—absolutely sets the mood for a great meal. Some Atlanta restaurants have been perfecting this recipe for years. Others are only just getting their fire started. The stickiness of our fingers lets you know that all of these places are worthy of a visit.
photo credit: Mhandy Gerard
Have you ever had sticky ribs cooked by a famous K-Pop star? Well, you’re missing out. Since 2010, Atlantans have had a fan-like obsession with Heirloom Market BBQ, which is helmed by former Korean pop star-turned-chef, Jiyeon Lee and her Texas-raised husband. Widely considered among the best barbecues spots in the entire state, Heirloom Market BBQ in Cumberland gives you the best of both worlds with menu items like their smoked ribs with a gochujang rub and tender beef brisket. We also like the mix of sides from the spicy, lightly fried and cubed tofu to the mac and cheese made with shell noodles. It's a mostly to-go joint, but there are a few highboys on the corner patio if you can't wait.
Though it’s hidden in the back of a small shopping strip, this wood-tabled, exposed-brick spot simply plops a “We’re behind the post office” sign on N. Highland Avenue and lets the smells of smoked meat do the rest of the directing. Juicy brisket and chicken that kiss the grill just long enough make D.B.A. one of the best 'cue joints in town. An impressive kid’s menu that has a quarter rack of ribs on it covers the smaller crew. And with creamed corn, sweet potato tots, and sugary baked beans consistently hitting the spot, this place can even be a dinner answer for your now-vegetarian friend who decides to visit on your cheat week.
photo credit: Kate Blohm
Walk into this Virginia-Highlands favorite and you see all the familiar comforts: wood planks on the wall, bourbon bottles on the shelves, and UGA football on the TV. It feels like home. And while you’ll spot traditional terms such as “pulled pork” and “smoked brisket” on the menu, know that these dishes will be presented in fun, untypical ways. (See: brisket egg rolls.) That’s because Sweet Auburn BBQ owners Anita and Howard Hsu do their barbecue with an Asian spin. That those items, as well as other standouts like the spicy Szechuan lemon pepper wings, taste as good as they sound is a delicious bonus.
When you walk into this unfussy East Atlanta spot, you’re immediately greeted with a yellow menu plastered on the wall. The roster is large both in square footage and options. Your eyes will float between the rib-n-chicken dinner and rib tips, beef sausage sandwich, and turkey burger combo. You won’t go wrong with any protein pick. But if we had a slotted spatula to our heads and had to single out one item, it would have to be the smoked wings. The meat almost falls off the bone before it gets to your mouth, which isn’t a bad thing since an assortment of sauces (the mustard-based Pure Gold is dope) will be around to catch any loose ends.
photo credit: Justin Fox
The Texas-born siblings (a.k.a. the Fox brothers) opened their first barbecue joint in Atlanta in 2007 with the goal of bringing some of that Lone Star flair to the A. And as any best-of list worth its weight in wood chips will tell you, the brothers have more than accomplished their mission. Expect ‘cue-craving crowds at any of the three area locations. At the Chattahoochee Food Works address, stretch out in an airy dining room while nibbling on juicy brisket, chicken, or smoked turkey. Sides like the collard greens and baked beans hit just right, too, proving that the Deep South is wearing off on the brothers in return.
Cueing up some Jeffrey Osborne or Isaac Hayes seems like a necessary prerequisite before pulling up to the parking lot of Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Why? Because everything feels so f*cking soulful inside. The West End counter service barbecue spot, named after the restaurant owner, is well-known for the whole-hog cooking style. Additionally, turkey, chicken wings, and brisket get their turn on the heat. And when a forkful of smokey meat pairs with a drizzle of the vinegary Rodney sauce, pucker up and prepare to start humming your favorite soulful love ballads.
photo credit: @bitesndbevsmedia Amisha Nair
The interior at Daddy D’z feels like a restaurant in another country trying to recreate a barbecue joint for ex-pats. The only thing is that the faded stickers on the door, the dusty highway signs on the wall, and the peeled-paint patio here ain’t a gimmick. This place has looked exactly like this for decades. And during that same time frame, the hickory-smoked awesomeness coming from the back has pleased hungry ATLiens. On your next visit, start things off with smoked wings that you drizzle in the house sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, go with the turkey ribs for your main. The skin is a little tough, but the meat is terrific. Not up for change? Stick with the rib-ribs, the pork ones. Locals sure have since the place opened back in the early ’90s.
photo credit: Mhandy Gerard
We’ve never attended a family reunion in Texas, but if we ever do, we’re guessing it’ll feel a lot like a meal at Hattie Marie’s. With pitmasters from Port Arthur overseeing things, this friendly College Park operation wows with slow-smoked brisket and juicy chicken instead of wooing with gimmicky bbq-themed decorations. (A roll of strong paper towels is the only adornment we really need anyway.) Like any proper family function, though, Hattie Marie’s takes a lil’ long preparing the food and the taste of its sides widely varies. The well-seasoned cabbage and baked beans will conjure happy memories. But like you do with that one “uncle” who’s always asking to hold a few dollars, it’s perfectly fine to ignore the bland collards and mac.
photo credit: Amisha Nair for Bites and Bev Media
Sitting within screaming distance of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Smokey Stallion is already becoming known for its festive atmosphere around Falcons games. Come on a random afternoon, though, and there’s a good chance you won’t have any wait and zero worry about the kitchen being out of rib tips. If you’re feeling frisky, get the turkey legs—dabbing the succulent meat in the semi-sweet sauce might leave you at a loss for words. Another winner is the ranch-sprinkled Dirty Bird wings. Side items were hit (bangin’ fried okra) or miss (boring mac and cheese), but the tender meats and full bar are more than enough to keep you happy on game day or any other day of the week (except for closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Some come in for the club vibes, others are there because someone told them about their smoked wings (maybe that was us). Either way, they all discover that tasty, sticky barbecue is not at all contradictory to a party-like social scene. Parking is a bit of a brain teaser, but after that you’ll make your way up to the shaded rooftop of this barbecue spot on Ralph David Abernathy between Downtown and Summerhill. Get the ribs or the smoked wings, and smother them with their zesty, housemade Carolina barbecue sauce, our preference over their semi-sour traditional sauce. And if you’re not in the mood for hookah smoke with your smoked ribs, there’s a more low-key dining space on the ground level.