A House Divided – the Brothers Debate B’s Cracklin’ BBQ
When Brother Ol’ Smoke threw out the idea of going to B’s Cracklin’ BBQ in Atlanta for our monthly meeting, many of us had not heard of it. It is truly off the beaten path, so there is no way in the world any of us would have driven by it just by happenstance. But the online reviews were good, so we headed west of the city for our final meeting of the year.
And what a great way to wrap things up in 2015, especially as we indoctrinated 2 new brothers – Brother Daddy-O and Brother Jacob! We always say, and have proven time after time, that our individual reviews are not only colored by our individual tastes, but also what we order! That’s what makes our job at brothers-in-slaw difficult, but also fun – and extremely important to our readers. And I am telling you now – nowhere have we had this much dissention. I would not have been surprised if a fight had broken out. This wasn’t a gas vs. charcoal grill debate (which isn’t really even a debate, is it?), or even a St. Louis style vs. baby back rib debate. This was a full on “mine was terrible” vs. “mine was incredible debate.” The dividing line??? What we ordered! Keep reading for the most varied review you will ever read! And also to know what to order when you visit B’s. Let’s start with the good. And you can check out Brother Taters’ review here.
B’s Cracklin’ BBQ is yet another highly anticipated restaurant the Brothers had to review. One of AJC’s food editors suggested this place to me as well as others. And being familiar with the location I knew it had to be special. B’s Cracklin’ BBQ is located in western Atlanta that is doing a great job of evolving from decades of urban decay. A pioneering spirit is required to make a business thrive out there and it appears to have paid off.
B’s is inside an old purple house with big yellow signage about. When you walk through the parking lot, you know something special is cooking. The smokiness was legit. The setting, the looks, the name; it seemed like a great place. The familiar step-up-to-order counter with the menu written on the chalkboard was a good sign. I prefer daily menus since it indicates the offerings are fresh. Fresh pork skins! Great, gimme an order of those, the ribs, brisket, collards, and mac and cheese. Could it get any more review-friendly?
The popping rinds came out quick and were probably the best I’ve had. Just light, perfectly seasoned, and crispy. Everybody at the table snatched, crunched and mmm’ed. Shortly after, my BBQ basket arrived with tender ribs, thick brisket, my sides, and a nifty cornbread pancake. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, which I love, and the flavor was excellent. B’s says something about using Heritage Hogs, and if this is what that means, I’m hooked. They have one of the best ribs in the city. Bam, I said it. The brisket was thick and beefy, just like I prefer, and had a nice color and tenderness. The mac and cheese was done right, without greasiness and lots of great cheese flavor. But the collards were surprisingly excellent. They were prepared with lots of turkey meat which provided a bold, savory taste. All of this along with a sweet corn pancake made for a most satisfying BBQ meal. The only tiny niggle I have is the selection of sauces. There was only mustard/peach and spicy vinegar flavors, which were fine since I was happy with using just salt and pepper on the meats. But still, it’s nice to have a traditional sauce.
B’s Cracklin’ BBQ is without a doubt, one of Atlanta’s best BBQ restaurants.
I’m honoring it with my first overall five-cleaver rating!
I’ll just say it now and save the suspense. I’m with Squishy. I even ordered the exact same thing he did. See where this is going?
Getting out of the car I was almost knocked down by the smell of hickory smoking off the back of the building. I knew I was in for a treat when I walked up the wooden walkway to the restaurant, and opened the door to a nice, traditional, what-you-would-expect atmosphere.
Half of the brothers were already eating, so I snuck over and grabbed a couple of pork skins – perfectly cooked and delicious! Maybe a hair too salty for me, but they were still awesome. I ordered the rib and brisket combo, with mac & cheese and collards. WHOA!!!! I couldn’t eat fast enough! I went rib first, and it fell right off the bone! But the meat itself was still firm – perfect! Next, the brisket. Whoa baby, also perfect. I couldn’t believe it! Was the review going to come down to the sides? No matter, and no contest. The mac & cheese was just right, and the collards were out of this world.
Now let’s talk about the sauces. I was skeptical, too, when I saw the peach mustard sauce and spicy vinegar. But I’ll tell you right now, that peach mustard sauce was the absolute jam. It paired PERFECTLY with the ribs. Absolutely delicious. That did the trick for me. 5 cleavers, no ifs, ands, or buts about it! And I found my holy grail – the best rib in Atlanta is at B’s Cracklin BBQ. At least on that day. 5 freakin’ cleavers! Put that in your green egg and smoke it . . .
Upon arriving at this spot my first impression was the strong scent of wood smoke from the parking lot, which was a pleasant introduction. The ambience matched well with the location in what appeared to be an old house or church. This type of feel is what I would expect from a BBQ joint, as opposed to some of the more upscale locations we have reviewed this year. With that said, I thought the menu was overpriced as my total bill was over $20 for a 2 meat plate and a tea.
I ordered a 2 meat plate with pork and chicken. My sides were bbq beans and seasoned fries. A noteworthy aspect of their pork is that they only do whole hog and claim to be the only place in Atlanta that does. I learned this before ordering and had to try the whole hog to see how it compared to the Eastern NC version of whole hog that I grew up eating.
I thought they did a fine job on both of the meats that were on my plate, although I did hear some negative feedback regarding the pork. The thing about whole hog is that it is different than smoking shoulders or butts in that you will get some leaner cuts mixed in with the more fatty ones and it might not be the same texture. Overall, it was pretty good and the chicken had an intense smoke flavor which worked well. The sides, especially the beans had a lot of flavor as well. I don’t typically order fries as I would rather provide a review for some type of vegetable but I guess I was in the mood for something fried.
Overall score: 3.5 cleavers, which would have been higher if they offered a better value.
No matter where we eat, I’m always looking forward to getting together with the brethren. This outing was special because a long-time friend was going to join us for the first time and another friend from the office wanted to join in to see what all the B.I.S. hype was about. Welcome pledge Dan and Jack. Simple names we can all remember. All the better.
Well, I’d just had rather forget B’s Cracklin BBQ. Not a good experience for me with their Carolina style pulled pork sandwich. A hefty serving that left me pretty well unsatisfied. Thankfully, I had ventured off the trail and selected collards for my side. An excellent choice and as good as any homemade greens I’ve had. I might only suggest some pepper flakes in their recipe to give it that tiny kick that pairs well with a sweet sauce.
Speaking of sauces… peach and some other sauce I have thankfully forgotten. Don’t try and be “cutesy” with the sauces. Get a recipe that works. Not a recipe name that sounds good in marketing.
Brothers, I just really can’t go on with this review. Were it not for the good company of my brothers and my two guests I would have walked away from this meeting into the dire straits of BBQ dissatisfaction. I’m going to give B’s another try just because it seems the consensus was that any choice in BBQ sandwich was not a good choice. The good stuff was the brisket which I will be sure to order next time. 1.5 Cleavers