Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fresh Air Barbecue (Jackson, GA)

1164 Highway 42 South
Jackson, GA 30233

Fresh Air Barbecue Place on Urbanspoon

Georgia's oldest BBQ joint lies somewhere between Jackson and Flovilla, Georgia. Originating during the Great Depression in 1929, local veterinarian, Dr. Watkins, found himself BBQ'ing whatever decent meat he could find to help get by during tough times. Hard times eventually passed, Fresh Air Barbecue was born, and his legacy would live to this day. Dr. Watkins would eventually sell the business to the Caston family in the 1940's. This didn't stop him from working and playing an active role every day until 1996 at ninety years old.

When you pull up you know you've found a place that's special to generations of locals. There's nothing fancy or pretentious about it. It's just a place doing what it knows, how it's always done it. I've mentioned in previous posts how a lot of times people have a favorite BBQ spot mainly because of all of the memories associated with it. I can guarantee that Fresh Air Barbecue is a favorite to many.

You'll pass the old weathered picnic tables walking on scattered sawdust to make your way through the main door. Subsequently, there's another entrance in the back that was used to serve African-Americans up until the 60's. I've heard some customers still come through that back door to get served. The restaurant revolves around the massive hickory wood-fueled brick pit behind the counter. There is also another smoker in the building behind the dining area. An area for additional seating was built in the 80's to accommodate the ever growing crowd.  

BBQ here is pulled/chopped pork. There were no other meat options. You can have it on a plate or a bun, with or without sauce. The sauce is a simple vinegar and ketchup mixture. Sides include a seventy year old recipe Brunswick stew and/or coleslaw. Plates are served with a pickle, saltine crackers, and white bread. The pork was almost as dry as the sawdust you walk in on. I asked for my sauce on the side but immediately added the tangy tomato sauce after the initial taste. The coleslaw was fresh and had an amount of sugar in it that's tough to compare to. My favorite part of the meal was the Brunswick stew. It's a simple recipe with a thin consistency and a little on the salty side. You wash it all down with some of their fresh homemade sweet tea. I found myself in a vicious cycle of trying the dry pork with vinegar sauce, followed by gulping sweet tea, eating a spoonful of the hot Brunswick stew, and then finishing with the cool, sweet coleslaw. You repeat this dry, refreshing, hot, sweet cycle until your plate is gone. Maybe that's how they designed it and that's what keeps people coming back. I fell for it I suppose.

Fresh Air is one of the most original spots we've visited to date with a lot of history in it. It's well worth your time to at least stop by and check it out as long as it's still around. Unfortunately, the food just doesn't deliver.


  1. Try Zeb's bbq in Danielsville GA. Similar style as it is a great tailgate pickup for UGA games.

  2. Thanks Justin...adding it to the BBQ "wishlist."

  3. did you quit using the stars rating system?

  4. I did. Trying to move away from that. Hope you still find helpful.

  5. You should try The Blind Pig on the other side of Jackson. (don't worry about killer swine though....you would go vegan after eating there) - Tom

  6. You are right about the Blind Pig. I stopped by there and bought 3 racks of over priced ribs and when I got home realized that they had cut off 4 or 5 inches off of each rack on the short side. That will not happen again. It will be a quick trip to Mad Dog's for me.

  7. I live 25 miles from Fresh Air , have eaten there for 40 years and have never had a plate of dry pork. You may not know good BBQ if you stepped in it. If you find some better in Georgia I want to know where it is.

    1. Most anywhere is better. Driest Q I have ever had. Drove 2.5 hours just to eat at the "oldest and best bbq joint in GA."

  8. Jds BBQ in acworth is a great spot. We have a good group of friends doing similar things in north ga, going around hitting the hotspots and blog about it..... Fun so far

  9. My favorite BBQ place in Georgia is "Dean's Barbeque" in Jonesboro, GA. Open since 1947, both myself and my parent's earliest memory of 'eating out' are courtesy of "Dean's" When I was little (40+ years ago) the yard outside the place had plenty of tall old oaks with lights strung between them. You ate under those in your car. Country music played on an outside speaker. Ladies came to the car for your order and brought to you/your family on a window tray. Dean's is the best BBQ I've tasted anywhere.

    Lot's of memories tied to that wonderful place.

    Go pay them a visit and have a bite if you ever get the chance. Take care everyone!

  10. I've been eating Fresh Air for over 40 years. It remains my very favorite. Its taste is unique & unforgettable. The location in Jackson serves chopped pork sandwiches & Brunswick stew.
    Other locations (Athens & Macon) serve ribs & chicken.