Like Shooting Pigs in a Barrel. And Cows. And Chickens. A review of Fox Brothers BBQ
Ya’ know, it’s almost like we cheated. For our first ever official Brothers-in-Slaw meeting we had to choose a place that we knew would be good. It doesn’t take many Google searches to narrow it down to only three or so BBQ joints that are always and forever considered Atlanta’s best, and no place tops the list as frequently as Fox Brothers. And Jiminy Christmas do they always deliver! The Nolen Family brilliance to guide Jonathan and Justin Fox via Smith’s Olde Bar into their masterpiece of a restaurant on DeKalb Avenue has been nothing short of genius. In this meat-eater’s opinion, a better blend of Texas and the Southeast cannot be found. To so impressively pull off perfect pork and beef (and chicken!) is no small feat.
We stuffed our faces, and the beauty of having 5 brothers/pledges in attendance was that we could order tons of different delicacies. Brother Cracklin’, Brother Fixin’s, and Pledge Pork Fat contribute their opinions below. And by the way, the bottom fell out as we left, so we had to run about 1/2 mile to our cars (that’s how busy this place is). Not a good idea after eating so much – fortunately no one saw us huffing and puffing our way down the street. Or puking.
It may be just east of the very heart of downtown Atlanta but in a gentrified neighborhood on Dekalb Avenue is some of the best roadside BBQ you’ll find. I describe it as roadside because although it’s smack in the middle of a residential area, once inside the feel is more like you happened upon a joint somewhere on US 290 40 miles west of Austin.
Lunchtime can be busy so get there early if you can. The eclectic mix of patrons creates a lively atmosphere and immediately gets you psyched up and ready to indulge in the smoke that has led you here. If you have to wait for a table, there’s a full bar to quench your cowboy dry mouth and plenty of memorabilia on the walls to generate conversation. Fox Brothers has indoor and patio seating with heat for those chilly fall and spring days in Atlanta.
The brothers and I made a conscious effort to try a little bit of everything. We started with the smoked wings which are nothing short of what all wings should aspire to be. A light crisp on the exterior in areas where the fat is thickest on the skin. The inside was super moist and upon biting, the release of smoky goodness was intoxicating. The wings are a perfect start to getting the pleasure center of your mind awakened. Every bite, all the way to the bone was tender and worth every penny paid. Some places that serve only wings can’t do wings this good. A must try appetizer.
This brother went with the pig and chick combo plate. A 1/4 chicken and about a 1/4 pound of pulled pork. The sides were Brunswick stew and baked beans. I’m usually more adventurous with the sides but as a first pass I figure if you can’t master these two then you probably should shut the doors. They did not disappoint.
The Brunswick stew was nice and chunky like I like it with identifiable ingredients. I really despise a stew that looks like it’s been through a blender. Always feels like it’s just a way for the chef to get rid of expiring ingredients. That was not the case with Fox Brothers. A nice and hearty brunswick stew that falls on the side of being “tomatoey” with just the right amount of smoke hints. I think it’s also important to note that it complimented the entire meal rather than overpowering or tasting like it came from another BBQ joint.
Beans are usually beans in most BBQ joints, but Fox Brothers does a good job in making a recipe that is a fine chaser with a bite of meat. I’ve been to plenty of places where the restaurant tried too hard to make the baked beans a standalone item by adding jalapeños or bell peppers for strong flavor. It’s like they want to distract you from the meat for which you came for. In short, simple, good, complimentary.
Now let me tell you that I get served my share of chicken dishes at home but for this review I thought it important to not only try the pork but also the chicken.
The pork serving was showing a good spotting of smoke ring and char in the chopped portion that I ordered. It’s not only important to me the quality of the smoking but also the way it’s served. When I think chopped, I’m thinking bite sized. A lot of BBQ joints confuse chopped with minced. For me, I want to still see strands of meat not a pile of meat crumbles. As with the Brunswick stew, minced always feels to me like you’re trying to hide something or “pad” the serving with less desirable cuts. That is not the case with Fox Brothers. The serving was generous, moist and melted like butter in your mouth. Anyone who would say this is not good BBQ is just stating a personal preference. If I were introducing someone to the art of BBQ then this would be an exemplary serving.
This brother had to really put aside what I wanted to believe about smoked chicken for this meal. Of course in my mind the chicken could not compare to the pork. But being objective, I have to say that the chicken came out on top of the pork this time. It was incredibly moist and like the chicken wings, you could eat every morsel upon the bones. The flavor was having me wishing I had ordered a 1/2 chicken. I can’t really put my finger on it but somehow the chicken contained more of what I wanted the pork to be like. What that something is, I don’t know. I would just say that if for some reason Fox Brothers ran out of pork one day, ordering the chicken would not be a compromise.
My last point is on sauces. Fox Brothers keeps it simple. You have regular and spicy. Either is good and neither is necessary. That in itself tells you all you really need to know about Fox Brothers.
In summary, Fox Brothers is a BBQ destination. It’s not just another sauce drip on our map. This brother will probably be sneaking off by himself to get a little more Fox Brothers but I do hope to see you there. – Cracklin’
My order consisted of a brisket plate with two sides. For the sides I opted for collard greens and chili Mac, which seemingly is their macaroni and cheese with brisket chili on top.
I always get the fatty brisket which is the best I’ve had in Atlanta and requires no sauce. This experience was no exception. The collard greens had a nice level of heat to them and were also a little crunchier than I’m accustomed to which wasn’t necessarily a negative. The chili mac was delicious as well, although perhaps not the lightest option when paired with my brisket.
Aside from that, we all shared an order of their smoked wings which are always excellent as well as a plate of tater tots covered in chili and cheese. All things considered this was an incredible meal and I am looking forward to the next meeting. – Pork Fat
There isn’t much left to say. In addition to the amazing wings, we ordered one of the two tater tot appetizers on the menu (The Tomminator and the Lopez). We ordered the Lopez, which is crispy tater tots smothered in brisket chili and topped with melted cheese. Words can’t describe the combination of crispy tots emboldened with the rich flavor of the brisket chili. It was a match made in heaven, and it was gone in no time.
For my meal, I just can’t resist the opportunity to eat ribs. As the Knights of the Round Table searched for the Holy Grail, finding the best ribs in Atlanta is my quest. My purpose. My reason for living. Ok, it’s a great hobby. So I ordered the ribs and brisket combo, and wisely chose the fried okra as one of my sides.
The whole plate was delicious. Fox Bros. ribs were, as usual, just right. I don’t like my ribs to fall off the bone into my lap (they already have that – it’s called pulled pork), and these were pulled from the smoker at the perfect time. If I don’t have to, I don’t want to put sauce on my ribs either, and these tasted great either way. And the brisket was the perfect blend of smoky and natural flavor, and cooked perfectly. As pledge Pork Fat said, you have to get the fatty brisket. If you don’t, those in the know will point at you and laugh.
Do yourself a favor and go to Fox Brothers immediately. Seriously. Like right now. – Fixin’s