Monday, August 8, 2011

The Swallow at the Hollow (Roswell, GA)

1072 Green Street
Roswell, GA 30075-3638


Swallow at the Hollow on Urbanspoon

The next stop on the Georgia Barbecue Hunt was Roswell's own, Swallow at the Hollow. Well-known for their food as well as live country and bluegrass music, we decided it was time to officially add them to the hunt. I had a little help on this tour-stop from my good friend Kenan who also shares an affection for all things BBQ. In addition to the good company, it also allows me to sample items off the menu that I usually wouldn't be able to try by myself. We met on a Friday for lunch and had both been looking forward to it all week. The best way to describe the Swallow at the Hollow is a place that you'd see tucked away in a swamp somewhere possibly surrounded by gators...and water moccasins. It has character to say the least. The old canoe filled with ice and 40 oz. beers that used to double as the bar has recently been replaced due to wood rot. I was a little disappointed, but the employee informed me that it was also removed so that they can now serve draft beer. Personally, I kind of liked the old canoe. It was just another thing that sets this place apart.

When we arrived there wasn't a wait and we were promptly seated. After speaking with our server I was informed that all meats are wood-smoked and sausage is homemade. There were also organic fruits such as watermelon that are offered daily. I decided to go with the half rack of pork back ribs and homemade sausage accompanied by baked beans and coleslaw. Kenan went with the Georiga-traditional chopped pork, mac 'n' cheese, and brunswick stew. While we waited for the food we decided to sample some of the sauces. They offer three sauces here: mustard, vinegar, and what the waiter described as a "Georgia" sauce. I'm still a little unclear what classifies it as such. I'm not a huge fan of vinegar and mustard based sauces usually and this time was no exception. The vinegar and "Georgia" sauce both had hints of Asian flavors which I found a little different. They were definitely not your traditional BBQ sauces. The mustard sauce was average.

No pink. No smoke
When our food arrived I immediately noticed that the ribs did not pass the initial visual smoke test. There was no evidence at all of spending any time in a smoker. After tasting, the initial assumptions were confirmed. What a disappointment; not to mention being lied to by the wait staff. They were either baked or boiled, finished on the grill, and then drenched with BBQ sauce...not my favorite. The sausage was below average as well. The fennel seeds were overwhelming and tasted like it needed maple syrup on top more than BBQ sauce. Maybe we can come back for breakfast. The homemade breads and baked beans were good while the coleslaw was a little dry.

Kenan had better luck with his. The chopped pork had nice smoke flavor with pieces of good bark. It was flavorful and juicy. This meat was actually given the smoky attention it deserved. As mentioned before, I've found it typical with Georgia BBQ for the pulled pork to get all of the culinary attention while other items get often neglected and overlooked. The mac 'n' cheeese and brunswick stew both did not disappoint either. I was definitely glad he came because his meal salvaged our trip to Roswell's most popular BBQ spot.

All in all, if good chopped pork, live music, and a cool surrounding is what you're in for, then the Swallow at the Hollow is your place. I wouldn't recommend the ribs or sausage though. While the pork is great, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done on the rest of the menu. I'm not sure they could hold their own in Texas, Carolina, Tennessee, or Missouri.


  1. This is probably my favorite BBQ place to go to. I just tried a place in Decatur, AL called Big Bob Gibson's, who just won overall best BBQ at the Memphis world competition. It wasn't bad, but I still haven't had ribs as good as Swallows anywhere ever. Now I will say, the first time I had them they were better than the last few times, but still great BBQ for someone that isn't that crazy for BBQ.

    -Eric Rench

  2. I've been to this restaurant expecting good barbecue and was disappointed in the quality of their food. I like the location and the "look and feel" of their restaurant but that's not enough to make me want to go back. Thanks for confirming my thoughts.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. Isn't Big Bob Gibson's the one with the famous "white sauce"?

  4. Hidden from Main Street, you really feel you have arrived in back woods Georgia when you pull onto the stones at Swallow. You are welcomed by a rotted out piano and people eager to eat some Q. 90% of my trips have ended up with the platter order of: pulled pork on Texas Toast, stew and mac. I would put this order up against any joint in the Atlanta Area. As with you I’m in shock in the loss of the Canoe. However, the family style seating, the buckets of beer and night time music will keep bringing me back.

    I sense your food wood of tasted better with a short wait out on the picnic bench having a bottle beer and dining with live music. Swallow is about the atmosphere, rather than the sit, eat, go.


  5. I'd agree GRK. The appeal at Swallow is definitely the atmosphere. When you add that to the good pulled pork, you're definitely not going to leave unsatisfied.

  6. Great post D. I've had SAH only via catering. Twice actually and I thought the Pulled Pork was pretty good. I've heard the restaurant's atmosphere is awesome and that they often host some of the nations biggest country music songwriters. But hey, this ain't a Country Music blog it's a BBQ blog. I like your honesty. I'm ready for you to lock on to some awesome TX style brisket. Other than my own I'm convinced that it doesn't exist in GA. Let me know if you find it. Awesome Job Dude.

  7. The pulled pork and atmosphere at SAH is great. I'm convinced there's got to be a place that's got good BBQ all around though. We'll find it!

  8. Awesome post. Keep up the good work. -Jamie

  9. I believe Swallow has not been as strong as it was in year's past. When i first started going there i thought the Q was better than it is now. Which is too bad becasue it does excel in a lot of areas.
    I still love their mac n cheese. I was surprised you did not like their sausage as I always enjoy it. I actually have gotten away from ordering their ribs and pork and only go there for the sausage now. Perhaps i just need to try some others and i'll be really blown away!

  10. Bob Gibson's in Alabama is the home of the white sauce. The White Sauce that is on the table is the bomb, the stuff you buy in the grocery store not so much..

  11. Swallow has daily specials, and if you are there on the day they make their homemade pastrami, you're in for a serious treat.