Although the city’s top restaurants are outstanding, local eateries serving the best BBQ in Atlanta are all deserving of special mentions.
Georgia’s capital might not be a barbecue city the way Austin and Memphis are, but pitmasters here certainly hold their own, satisfying any type of craving for meat (wet! Saucy! Dry! Smoky!).
Unbeknownst to most non-locals, Atlanta is also a hotbed of Korean barbecue, a culinary experience that literally takes place in the middle of the table, with the diners themselves cooking different meats on a grill positioned in front of them.
And if eating brisket and spare ribs just isn’t enough, head to the Atlanta History Center to peruse through “Barbecue Nation,” an exhibition exploring the cuisine’s history that is running through September (it’s one of the very best things to do in town that even the kids might appreciate!).
A special mention before you get to our list: local favorite B's Cracklin' Barbecue, by stellar pitmaster Bryan Furman, was originally part of our roundup but unfortunately burned down in March of 2019. Although there are plans to rebuild the space, it is currently closed.
Sometimes, when two chefs fall in love, they open a barbecue spot to bring together both of their passions to the kitchen, which is exactly what happened here. Cody Taylor, a Tennessee boy, and Jiyeon Lee, a Korean pop-star turned chef, are the brains behind Heirloom Market. This hole-in-the-wall has zero indoor seating, but that doesn’t stop folks from flocking here for southern barbecue served with Korean spices, sauces and accouterments. The specials sell out fast and change daily so keep an eye on the website to figure out what’s being served.
Grand Champion is at Krog Street Market (and three other locations OTP). If you want to indulge in the succulent brisket or twice-smoked pork-beef sausages (the two best meat options on the menu), you need to get in line early as they sell out fast. The macaroni and cheese dish and the banana pudding are also absolute must-orders.
Fox Brothers (actually founded by Texas transplant twin brothers Justin and Jonathan Fox) is a must-go when in need of ‘cue in Atlanta. The Candler Park spot gets packed but you’ll be munching on Frito pie (served in a Frito bag) in no time. For the tastiest experience, order the Tomminator (tots smothered in Brunswick stew), the Texacutioner sandwich (brisket, jalapeño cheddar sausage, mustard) and the banana pudding. You can get a taste of the offerings at their “que”-osk in Armour Yards, where they also sell kolaches for breakfast.
Ari, in Johns Creek, is quite a drive from intown Atlanta but offers the best Korean barbecue in the area. The ambiance is uniquely upscale thanks to the artful eye of co-owner and designer Stella Lee. There’s no 12-hour smoked brisket here. Instead, each table has a grill to load with meats, like prime ribeye and brisket, which guests cook themselves. The banchan (Korean sides like kimchi) are made in-house and their acidic flavors cut through the fatty meats perfectly.
Sweet Auburn in Poncey-Highland is the place to go to when you want more than barbecue. The meats, like the brisket and pulled pork, are great, but so are the Asian-infused eats (inspired by the roots of owners and siblings Anita and Howard Hsu). Can’t-miss items include the Wu Tang wings and pimento cheese wontons. The Bing & Rosemary cocktail (gin, rosemary syrup and lemon) is the ideal concoction to wash all that food down.
The Atlanta institution is one of the city’s best known barbecue spots. It has called the same no-frills shack on Piedmont Avenue home for nearly 30 years. There’s almost always a line out the door but the ribs served sticky and sweet make the wait worth it. Order them as a slab or on a sandwich and enjoy them while listening to some live blues music, which they have every night.
Lovies couldn’t be farther from the Buckhead norm of steakhouses and corporate office buildings—and that’s what makes it so great. The fast casual restaurant is warm and welcoming with a straightforward menu. Stick with a barbecue plate of smoked meat, like pulled pork or brisket, and two southern-style sides. They also serve a tasty breakfast every morning, with several biscuit sandwiches and barbecue plates to choose from.
Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q opened the Marietta location nearly 30 years ago and has since opened more: they are clearly doing something right. The restaurant has an old-school feel to it, with lots of wood paneling and dark, cozy booths. You’d be silly not to start with the BBQ potato skins stuffed with your choice of chicken, pork or beef and plenty of cheese. Then get the slab of ribs with a side of the panko onion rings. Warning: you may need to be rolled down I-75 after.
The Westside joint’s name is inspired by the Czech and German settlers who brought barbecue to Texas. And, now, Das has brought that Texas style to Atlanta. The off-set wood smokers are immediately visible when you approach the restaurant and will make your mouth water upon arrival. Stick to the brisket (fatty or lean) and the spicy sausage and you’ll be happy.
Greasy hash browns, refined French pastries and even specially-crafted bagels will kick off your day, from Summerhill to Marietta and all around town, providing delicious nutrition that will propel your planned walks through the city’s best attractions, things to do or, well, a workday.