Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Neal's Bar-B-Que (Thomson, GA)

664 Augusta Road
Thomson, GA 30824

I've just returned from Austin, TX and had some damn fine BBQ. Will it make me be a little more tough on places recently visited in Georgia? Absolutely...and as it should be. BBQ is worldwide and should all be held to the same standard. I hate hearing "It's really good...for Georgia BBQ." It shouldn't matter where it's from. If it's good, it's good and if it's bad, it's bad. Call it like you see it.

With that being said, I recently visited a little place named Neal's outside of Augusta in Thomson. It's a little hard to find, but once you're there you're greeted like an old friend. The tin roof covered wooden porch leads you into a patriotic themed dining room. Whole hog cooked pulled pork and slow cooked spare ribs are kept warm in Crock Pots just over the counter....yes, Crock Pots. It's either chicken or pork here at Neal's. No beef on the menu. I didn't try the chicken on this visit and just stuck with the spare ribs and "spicy" pulled pork sandwich. Being so close to South Carolina, hash is naturally served as a side instead of the usual Georgia Brunswick stew.  You don't see BBQ hash in Georgia that often, but the further northeast you visit, the more it pops up on BBQ menus. If you've never had it, then just think "thicker Brunswick stew with potatoes." These side items are very similar in taste just not texture.

I don't have a lot of great things to say about the food here at Neal's. They cook whole hog which means you won't find a lot of smoke on the pork. For what you lack in smoke you usually make up with a juicy pork flavor in whole hog cooking....not here. The dry sandwich had a little kick of pepper with some vinegar flavors, but overall wasn't appealing. The grey, chewy, overcooked ribs that were covered in a sweet BBQ sauce should've been chopped up and added to the hash or thrown out.

For what it's worth, the hash and rice was better here than the last couple places I've tried. The staff here is amazingly friendly and will put a smile on your face as you stomach the sub-par BBQ.

Neal's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 4, 2012

Burnt Fork BBQ (Decatur, GA)

614 Church Street
Decatur, GA 30030

Vegans, organics, locals, vegetarians, food snobs, and BBQ lovers...Did we miss anyone? Burnt Fork BBQ aims to please...everyone. I know the whole adage about "when you try to please everyone...blah blah blah." We came as BBQ lovers to burnt fork and that's all we really cared about. I'll admit that it's nice to see "hormone free" and "local" on the menu, but the real test is what you can do with that piece of meat. All of that doesn't mean a thing if the food isn't cooked properly.

We don't visit the Decatur area that much, and I wish I did more. There are a lot of cool places/people and Burnt Fork BBQ fits right in. Only being open for a little over a year, I've already heard a lot of good things from people I trust. They've got the whole "old, renovated convenience store mixed with industrial metals, exposed ceilings" vibe down. The indoor, stainless steel smoker faces away but looked like a pellet smoker...possibly a Cook Shack. I've mentioned some places that happen to do great things with these types of smokers, but please don't think that every thing that comes out of them is always gold. There is still room for error that has a LOT of BBQ joint owners scratching their heads. My dad always used to tell me that "When you're aiming a bow, it's not about the arrows, it's about the Indian." Just because a lot of guys have mastered these smokers, it doesn't mean that it's that easy.

We got to Burnt Fork pretty early at around 11:30. Being the only diners there, we looked over the interesting menu which features items from "Smoked Beef Brisket" to "Tofu Spring Rolls."  I bet you can guess which one we ordered. Along with the brisket, we ordered ribs, brisket nachos, and a pulled pork sandwich. They boast of their Brunswick stew so we tried that along with some mac 'n cheese and homemade sweet potato chips. If you need it, they've got a couple different sauces to accommodate most preferences.

No food distributor tortilla chips here. We had freshly fried pieces of tortilla topped with small bits of brisket and cheese on our nachos. Be warned that the amount of cheese and brisket is minimal (is there ever enough?). Not a lot to say about this dish, although it did tide us over until the rest of our food came.