Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dave Poe's BBQ (Marietta, GA)

5660 Whitlock Ave.
Marietta, GA 30064

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There was a time when Dave Poe's BBQ, Community Q, and Sam's BBQ 1 all lived together harmoniously under one roof at Sam and Dave's BBQ. Those days are over, but it doesn't mean that it's not for the best. We now have three different locations to experience equal but different, consistent BBQ. We made our first stop of the three to Sam's BBQ 1 last month, and it was now time to pay our respect to Dave Poe's BBQ (formerly Sam and Dave's BBQ 2).

Personally, I really wish these guys would abandon the idea of shopping center BBQ facilities. I feel like it takes away from the overall experience and doesn't give them enough credit. Their business can stand alone just by serving BBQ and so should their restaurant. There are most certainly BBQ joints deserving of being hidden in a strip mall somewhere but that's not the case here. With that being said, Dave Poe's BBQ is almost identical in appearance to Sam's BBQ 1. The color scheme might be a little different but that's about it. When you walk in you're immediately faced with a number of their local awards for competitions as well as for their restaurant. It was lunch time on a nice Saturday afternoon and this place was packed. I was worried that I wouldn't have a place to sit which would certainly be a problem because I was hungry and planned on trying everything they had available. I finally ordered my meal which included pulled pork, sausage, pork spare ribs, brisket, baked beans, and coleslaw.

Due to the busy crowd, I waited a good fifteen minutes before my number was called and my food was ready. I didn't mind since it probably meant that this BBQ was guaranteed fresh. As I waited I noticed the owner, Dave Poe, walking around and talking with every table there to make sure they were enjoying their meal. Many he personally knew and many he did not. I love seeing owners take the time to interact with their customers when possible. And I don't mean just stopping for a second at each table with the obligatory "how's everything?" and then moving on before you even get a chance to respond. 

I first tried their pulled pork. It's spot on. The rub and smoky flavors went nicely with the tender pieces of properly pulled pork. Sam's BBQ 1 and Dave Poe's pulled pork are almost identical...and this is a great thing. They both were in business together and managed to perfect pulled pork so I wouldn't expect anything less. The brisket was also better than average. It didn't have the dark bark that I am very fond of, but the meat was cooked properly and very enjoyable. The low points of the meal were the sausage and spare ribs. I was lucky enough to get an end piece of the rack which was very dry and almost inedible due to the lack of meat. The sausage was nothing much more than anything you could find at your local Kroger, Ingles, or Publix. I did thoroughly enjoy the coleslaw here at Dave Poe's. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but it was simple and fresh. It complemented the baked beans well. Good baked beans and coleslaw is one BBQ pairing that's tough to beat.

The sauces here are a little different than Sam's BBQ 1. There's a strong vinegar sauce as well as a tomato-based Memphis style sauce, but no mustard sauce. Most of the meats weren't in need of any sauce, but just in case you've grown fond of the mustard sauce at Sam's, don't expect it here at Dave Poe's. All in all, Dave Poe's reminded me a lot of Sam's BBQ 1. If I would've visited Dave Poe's first then I would say the same thing about Sam's. Both places have great pulled pork. I wasn't too impressed with the sausage or ribs here today though.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q (Cumming, GA)

3130 Ronald Reagan Blvd. Cumming, GA 30041

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I'm not big on chain BBQ restaurants. They get a bad rap...and usually for good reason. I'd like to make an exception to this rule, and that would be Jim 'N Nick's BBQ in Cumming. We decided to give them a shot last weekend on our way to Helen for Oktoberfest. It was the smartest decision I made that weekend.

It was around 11:20 when we pulled in to Jim 'N Nick's. There weren't many people there, but I know we were pretty early. You could smell the smoke from the smokers as soon as you pulled in. We walked in, were greeted, and then promptly seated. If you've never been to a Jim 'N Nick's before then you're in for a treat while you wait for your food. They have some of the best complimentary corn muffins available. I recommend asking for honey butter as well (if you're into that sort of thing). I'm not sure where honey butter topped corn muffins fall in the scope of BBQ, but I'm not making any formal complaints. The only warning I'd give is that you need to be careful because I could easily fill up on these things alone. After a couple baskets of corn muffins (I wish I was exaggerating), we placed our orders. Jamie and I would split the three meat combo which came with pulled pork, brisket, pork back ribs, and beef sausage. Our sides included baked beans and mac 'n cheese. I more often than not ask for my sauce on the side. I like to really be able to taste the BBQ sans sauce first. Many times the sauce can complement the meat, but I prefer to be the judge of that and not some line cook.

When our food came out the first thing I noticed was that it was drenched in sauce...perfect. Don't get me wrong, Jim 'N Nick's has great BBQ sauces. I just would've preferred it on the side. I kindly notified the waitress who in return unkindly gave us some attitude to go along with the overly sauced meat. We were in a hurry so I opted not to make a big deal out of it, and we tried to enjoy our meal. All meats had evidence of quality smoke. The pulled pork was better than average, but not the best I've ever had. The ribs were also just "pretty good." On the other hand, the brisket and sausage were fantastic here. They home make their sausage at Jim 'N Nick's which definitely surprised me. The sausage had nice flavor, texture, snap, and smoke. The brisket wasn't too dry where it crumbled, but wasn't too tough either. We thoroughly enjoyed both beef products. The sides were both good, but also forgettable.

When we left we decided to speak with the manager to let him know how our experience went. I'm never one to make a scene or embarrass anyone at a restaurant, but we just wanted to make sure they knew how their customers are treated. This is where Jim 'N Nick's really impressed us. A gentlemen by the name of Chad Reynolds came out and expressed to us how much he regretted what happened. He was very sincere and did everything he could to make sure we would hopefully return to Jim 'N Nick's. Chad had no idea that I review BBQ, but he still treated us like we were their most important customers. We appreciated it and will definitely return if ever in the area.

The Jim 'N Nick's in Cumming has above average BBQ and above average management. It's a solid option at any location we've tried so far.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thompson Brothers BBQ (Smyrna, GA)

2445 Cobb Parkway SE
Smyrna, GA 30080

Thompson Brothers BBQ on Urbanspoon

After a week on vacation and out of the country, the Georgia Barbecue Hunt is back! We couldn't wait to get back to what we love, and that's good BBQ. For our next stop we headed over to Thompson Brothers in Smyrna. This Oklahoma family has been serving BBQ here in Georgia for the last couple years and have made quite a name for themselves lately, so we decided to give them a visit.  

When we first arrived Wednesday night around seven, this place was empty...literally. We were the only people there besides the cashier and cooks in the back. This usually doesn't speak well for any establishment, BBQ or not. The cashier was extremely cordial, not very knowledgeable about any of their BBQ techniques, but very courteous nonetheless. I spoke to him a little while about how all of the brothers were originally from Oklahoma, but now they all reside in Georgia for the sake of Thompson Brothers BBQ. One of the brothers even had a football career at the nearby University of Georgia. After talking to him for a little while, he suggested the "whole nine" since it was my first time visiting. The meal includes chopped beef, a pork spare rib, bologna, beef sausage, and baked beans. I'm not sure what Oklahoma's deal with smoked bologna is, but it was included so I didn't complain. We found an open seat (anywhere) and then eagerly waited...

We actually waited a good ten or fifteen minutes before our food was served. This makes me a little hesitant for the simple fact that there's no preparation involved with fresh BBQ. You slice it or chop it, put it on a plate, and it's done. If there's a long wait then they're either very busy or they're heating up your food. I could only guess which category our plate fell under. When the food finally arrived we were pleasantly surprised by our portions. For ten bucks you get more than your money's worth. The mound of chopped beef is piled on top of a few slices of bologna and placed in between a soft white bun. The chopped beef unfortunately, was old and flavorless. The same could be said about the brisket. None of it was fresh. I'm not saying it was yesterday's food, but it definitely tasted like it was. There's a difference between something that's a couple hours old and then brisket that's been in the refrigerator overnight and reheated. The sausage was decent. The ribs were pretty salty and tasted like they'd also been out for a little while. There was no smoky flavor on anything we had. Instead of being stuffed with fantastic BBQ, I ended up just indulging in the bologna sandwich. We couldn't take anymore of the beef, even doused in any of their sweet sauces. 

The folks at Thompson Brothers that we talked to were great. They love BBQ and we wish them the best. Unfortunately, the food was below par this time around. On to the next stop...